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Full text of "Mitre Court : a tale of the great city"

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MITRE COURT. 



3i L 1ak of the drcat GKtp. 



MRS. J. H. RIDDELL, 

AUTHOR OF 

"GEORGE GEITH OF FEN COURT," " SUSAN DRUMMOND,' 

ETC. 



IN THREE VOLUMES. 
VOL. I. 




LONDON : 
RICHARD BENTLEY AND SON, 

publishers in dDrbinarg to g^er Ipajestj) the (Quttrt. 

1885. 

[All Rights Reserved.} 




COxNTENTS OF VOL. I. 



CHAPTER 

I. MR. AND MRS. JEFFLEV - 
II. MR. KATZEN'S NEWS 

III. A PLAINT - 

IV. IN THE OLD HOUSE 

V. MRS. CHILDS INTERROGATED 

VI. MISS WEIR 

VII. MR. KATZEN'S LOVE 

VIII. SUNDAY --. 

IX. LESS THAN KIN - 

X. MRS. CHILDS' THEORY - 

XI. G. BRISCO - 

XII. MOST LONELY 

XIII. IN MITRE COURT - 

XIV. "ABOUT ABIGAIL" 



PAGE 
I 

26 

51 

74- 

95 

113 

13+ 

156 

I/O 

185 
212 
236 
258 

27S 




MITRE COURT. 



CHAPTER I. 




MR. AND MRS. JEFFLEY. 

N Fowkes' Buildings, hard by Great 
Tower Street, the curious reader 
may still see a large mansion 
which more than fifteen years ago was " run " 
as a lodging-house by Mrs. Maria Jeffley. 

There never existed a woman better fitted 
for such an undertaking. Strong, energetic, 
tireless, capable, Mrs. Jeffley made the 
captains, mates, and various friends those 
seafaring persons brought to the ''snuggest 
port " in London, perfectly happy. That at 
the same time she contrived to render Mr. 
Jeffley almost miserable was in the lady's 
VOL. i. I 



MITRE COURT. 



judgment a point not worth considering. 
Had he been differently constituted, his 
home ought to have seemed an abode of 
bliss to him — so the brisk Maria felt, and 
justly. She was not answerable for his 
constitution. 

John — or, as his friends preferred to call 
him, Jack — Jeffley filled the position of ware- 
houseman in the great firm of Deedes, Tun- 
stall, Fulmer and Company, wine merchants, 
who had offices in Dunstan Hill, and huge 
vaults nearer to the Tower. 

All their sfoods in those dim underground 
cellars were under his hand. The manager 
himself — who received a large salary and a 
percentage on the profits of the concern ; 
lived in his own house (freehold) at Forest 
Hill, and gave dinner-parties, for which it 
was stated, by persons behind the scenes, 
Messrs. Deedes and Co. paid per arrange- 
ment ; kept a phaeton and boy in buttons 
for his wife's gratification, and, generally 
speaking, " cut a dash " — was not really a 
more important factor in the firm's prosperity 
than plain Jack Jeffley, who only received a 
modest weekly wage, and the summit of 



MR. AND MRS. JEFFLEY. 



whose earthly ambition was a small cottage 
with a " bit of garden " which he might " keep 
to himself." 

He could have realized this aspiration 
years previously had Mrs. Jeffley been of 
her husband's mind ; but Mrs. Jeffley, as 
she not infrequently stated, had a different 
sort of mind altogether from the individual 
by a jocose fiction called her lord and 
master. The quiet of a cottage surrounded 
by a bit of garden would, so she declared, 
"kill her." She did not want to sit down 
and turn her dresses — she liked to buy 
new ones, and give them out to be made 
by Mrs. Mountly, who "fit her like a 
glove, and kept three apprentices, and a 
beautifully furnished house in Arbour Square 
(where the drawing-room was good enough 
for any lady in the land)." 

Mrs. Jeffley "had no notion of letting 
her children go about as if they were 
beggars ; she did not mind slaving and 
working her fingers to the bone " in order 
to send them on Sunday mornings with 
their rather abashed papa to their parish 
church of All Hallows, Barking, clad in 



MITRE COURT. 



rich apparel— sunny ringlets streaming over 
their shoulders, and long, white, real ostrich ■ 
feathers in their hats, which well-nigh drove 
the mothers of other children, no doubt 
quite as nice, distracted with envy. 

Even had she wished to accompany 
Mr. Jeffley to church on Sunday mornings 
— which she certainly never did — Mrs. 
Jeffley with a "houseful of lodgers" might 
have found it difficult to gratify her desire. 
Sometimes, though not often, she repaired 
in the afternoon of the first day in the 
week to Hyde Park to see the latest novelty 
in dress or shame, equipage or beauty ; and 
occasionally she attended evening service 
at the Abbey or St. Pauls, squired by one 
or more of the many respectful admirers who 
never wearied of singing their landlady's 
praises. 

" The cleverest woman you'd meet in the 
length of a midsummer's day !" was the 
chorus chanted by all Mrs. Jeffley's lodgers. 

In his heart Jack Jeffley often wished it 
had pleased God to make his wife a little 
less clever, but he was far too loyal to say so. 

Silently he resigned himself to this dis- 



MR. AND MRS. JEFFLEY. 



pensation of Providence, as to several other 
troubles in his married life. If Mrs. Jeffley 
did not maintain a like silence concerning 
the cross of having a husband " without a 
morsel of push in him," it must be remem- 
bered she was a woman, and might have 
broken her heart had she not sought and 
obtained sympathy from the many, concern- 
ing the shortcomings of a man who let her do 
as she pleased, gave her almost all he earned, 
and only asked to be allowed to keep one 
little room, where he could sit and smoke 
and read the paper in peace and quietness. 

" If you were like anybody else," Mrs. 
Jeffley frequently observed, "you might be of 
a lot of use to me." 

In reply to which genial remark Jack 
Jeffley said nothing. He had the greatest 
genius for saying nothing, which was indeed 
well, since his wife's talent lay in quite 
another direction. 

Though nominally master of the great 
house in Fowkes' Buildings, Mr. Jeffley was 
really merely a lodger in it, and a lodger less 
esteemed and considered than any other 
under the roof, not excepting Frank Scott 



AUTRE COURT. 



who, being a permanent inmate, young, poor, 
and easy tempered, ranked as one " of the 
family," and had to put up with being treated 
accordingly. His bedroom was next the 
slates, and if honest Jack had not made him 
free of his own small den, the young fellow 
must have confined himself to his narrow 
chamber, or consorted with rum-drinking and 
beer-swilling old salts, who, though excellent 
persons, no doubt, spat, swore, and told 
tough yarns, and whose conversation was 
rather apt to pall after a not very long 
period. 

Thanks to a lawyer's clerk, to whom, when 
his fortunes were at low water, Mrs. Jeffley 
had been extremely kind, that lady dis- 
covered, long before the Married Women's 
Property Act became law, according to the 
"custom of the City of London" she could 
trade independent of her husband, sue and 
be sued, rent a house, carry on a business, 
"keep what she made for herself," exactly 
as if she had never seen John Jeffley. 

This was before she started her boarding 
establishment, and, it is not uncharitable to 
conclude, the idea of having something free 



MR. AND MRS. JEFFLEY. 



from the control of the poor creature she had 
vowed to obey determined Mrs. Jeffley to 
persevere in her scheme. 

Had Mr. Jeffrey's consent and co-opera- 
tion been necessary, sea captains and others 
must have found a suitable anchorage else- 
where. The whole project was abhorrent to 
him, if for no other reason than that already 
Mrs. Jeffley had a person occasionally 
lodging with her whom he hated as much as 
it was in his nature to hate anybody ; he 
hated him for three reasons, not one of which 
will seem to a sensible reader sufficient to 
account for even a moderate dislike. 

In the first place, Mr. Karl Katzen was a 
foreigner, and, like a loyal Englishman, Jack 
Jeffley distrusted foreigners ; in the next, he 
was "undersized" and "unwholesome-look- 
ing," and Mr. Jeffley had a prejudice in 
favour of large men whose appearance did 
"credit to their keep." 

" Katzen might be fed on chaff," he said 
in later years to Frank Scott, and indeed 
Mr. Katzen might have been fed on sawdust 
for any good his food seemed to do him. 
He was lean and sallow ; he had eyes of no 



MITRE COURT. 



colour in particular ; he let his dark lank hair 
grow long ; he wore no beard or moustache, 
only a starved imperial ; presumably he some- 
times washed himself, yet he never looked 
clean. To big, burly Jack Jeffley, with his 
crisp brown hair, well-kept whiskers, clear 
complexion, tanned and freckled though it 
was ; frank mouth full of white good teeth, 
all of which he showed when he laughed, and 
heart that, though prejudiced, was full of the 
milk of human kindness, this inscrutable 
German was a standing affront. 

For he had brains, such as they were ; 
and jack Jeffrey's head might have been 
cleft open without finding more than just 
served to enable him to fulfil his duty to 
his employers. He did not possess enough 
mind to make him even think of doing- 
wrong. Fifty millions of money or money's 
worth might have been left at Jack Jeffrey's 
mercy, and he would never have set him- 
self to consider how easily he could abstract, 
say, a thousand pounds. 

He was very stupid indeed, according to 
modern lights. 

Two reasons, or non-reasons, have been 



MR. AND MRS. JEFFLEY. 



given why Mr. Jeffley disliked Mr. Katzen ; 
another remains behind. It is only fair to 
say Mr. Jeffley fought hard against it. 

He argued that no better was to be 
expected "off" (truth compels the con- 
fession that thus Mrs. Jeffley's husband 
worded his sentence) "a fool of a foreigner," 
and consequently Jack really did try to for- 
give him, but he could not. Very often he 
fancied he had not merely forgiven but for- 
gotten, and then suddenly the whole thing 
would recur to his memory, and at his work 
or walking along the street he again felt the 
hot blood rushing into his face, and tingling 
to his fingers' ends. 

And really poor Mr. Katzen's offence 
ought not to have been regarded as the 
unpardonable sin. To Jack Jeffley, how- 
ever, it seemed the same sort of crime 
that poisoning a fox would to a master of 
hounds. 

Jack came in his way of well-to-do people. 
His father and. his father's father had farmed 
their own land since the Conquest or there- 
about. They were yeomen, they were never 
rich, or great, or grand. Nevertheless they 



MITRE COURT. 



could trace a pedigree calculated to put to 
shame many a mushroom lord. They had 
fought for their country, they had poured 
out their blood for worthless kings they 
never saw, and died for principles they did 
not comprehend. Yet not one of them rose 
above the rank in which he was born ; titles 
and pensions, orders and bishoprics, are not 
for those who only perform yeomen's work ; 
rather as the years went on, and times 
changed — and the Jeffleys did not change 
with the times — matters grew worse with 
them. 

Old acres did not mean the same profit as 
formerly. Though meat grew dearer, cattle 
did not return so much money ; labour had 
to be better paid ; the very earth seemed 
to yield her increase less willingly than of 
yore ; — it was thus it came to pass that, 
finding things drifting from bad to ruin, 
John Jeffley left home, and sought his for- 
tune in London. 

But before he did this, he had learned to 
love the country and all country pursuits, 
and though he trod the stony streets con- 
tentedly enough, his fancy was for ever 



MR. AND MRS. JEFFLEY. 



roaming along the field-paths of his native 
county ; and as each spring returned to 
gladden the earth memory parted once 
again the interlacing branches which covered 
some bird's nest, while in the autumn days 
at heart he strode across his father's stubble 
once more, and raised his gun and brought 
down partridge and hare and pheasant on 
the land which had passed from him and 
his for ever. No man knew the points of 
a horse better than Jack Jeffley ; he could 
ride well ; when he took the reins, anyone 
might have felt secure in sitting beside 
him ; he had the natural vanity a good 
driver feels ; and yet once when he gave 
Mr. Katzen a lift in his employers' dogcart, 
that " blanked, blanked dirty little German,' 
to modify his more vigorous expression con- 
cerning that gentleman, finding the vehicle 
between the Charybdis of an omnibus and 
the Scylla of a lumbering wool-van, actually 
gave the off-rein a pull which as nearly as 
possible " landed us in the very mess the 
fool was afraid, of." 

Anything else in reason Mr. Jeffley might 
have looked over, but the united cowardice 



MITRE COURT. 



and unwisdom of Mr. Katzen's act stuck — to 
quote his own very words — " in his gizzard."' 

" How should you feel," he said to Mr. 
Frank Scott, " if a fellow — and that fellow 
a damned foreigner — laid his hands on the 
reins when you were driving ? I wonder I 
did not pitch him neck and crop out of the 
cart. 

And Mr. Frank Scott — who indeed knew 
as little about horses, and driving, and riding, 
except what he had learned from Mr. Jeffley 
himself, as a young gentleman could — was 
nevertheless sufficient of a friend and a 
Saxon to wonder how his host, smarting 
under such provocation, had forborne from 
crippling Mr. Katzen for life. 

Mrs. Jeffley took a different view of the 
affair. " Bosh !" she said when her worser 
half tried to make her understand the full 
enormity of which "the damned foreigner" 
had been guilty. " You are nothing but a 
big baby." 

And that was all the sympathy Jack Jeffley 
received from his wife. 

Years had passed since that little episode, 
but when this story opens it still rankled in 



MR. AND MRS. JEFFLEY. 13 

Mr. Jeffrey's heart. As has been said, he 
intuitively hated Mr. Katzen, wherein 
perhaps his instinct was not altogether 
wrong ; but he dealt out injustice to Mrs. 
Jeffrey's friend in imagining the German 
encouraged that estimable woman in her fads 
and fancies, and fostered those differences 
which were the plague of poor Jack's life. 

Jack was but human, and never having 
understood his wife, it came natural to him 
to attribute those faults which rendered his 
home less comfortable than it might have 
been, to the influence of anything or anyone 
rather than to the nature of the divine Maria. 
Loyalty plays men and women many a scurvy 
trick, but never a worse one than that of 
attributing to external sources the fouling of 
a spring which contains in itself the elements 
of impurity. 

Mr. Jeffrey would not see the whole worry 
of his existence lay in his wife's mental vanity. 
She thought herself so extremely clever that 
all her husband's ways seemed utter foolish- 
ness in her eyes. 

Many women who do nothing, fall into 
a similar error concerning their husbands' 



14 MITRE COURT. 



business incompetence ; therefore it is per- 
haps not quite surprising that Mrs. Jeffley, 
who did a great deal, should regard her lord 
as a mere cumberer of the ground. This 
view of Mr. Jeffley, which had been growing 
and flourishing for many years, was entirely 
her own. Mr. Katzen's share in it was 
absolutely nil. He did not foster any depre- 
ciatory ideas on the subject of Mr. Jeffley's 
abilities — quite the contrary. He was wont 
to laugh a dry ungenial laugh and tell the 
lady she knew nothing about men, and men's 
work — that she was too well off — that if her 
husband beat her, or drank, or was unfaithful, 
she would love the ground on which his 
shadow fell. " But," Mr. Katzen was wont 
to continue, " being only a good fellow, 
and devoted to you and his children, you 
can't find one pleasant word to say about 
him." 

There was indeed nothing Mr. Katzen had 
much less patience with than to hear Mrs. 
Jeffley holding forth concerning Mr. Jeffley's 
shortcomings. His own life was so stormy 
out of doors he loved peace within. He had 
no idea of disturbing his host's conjugal peace. 



MR. AND MRS. JEFFLEY. 15 

" Bah !" he would declare to Mrs. Jeffley, 
speaking between jest and earnest, " much as 
I like you, my friend, deeply grateful to you 
as I am and ought to be, I would not marry 
you were you hung with diamonds." 

" That is because you are so clever your- 
self," Mrs. Jeffley would answer in foolish 
explanation. Then Mr. Katzen was wont to 
look in the lady's face with a dubious smile, 
and remark : 

" Dear madame, you are not half so clever 
as you imagine. All those stupid old Nep- 
tunes are leading you quite astray — not of 
malice prepense perhaps, but they gaze at 
you through spectacles of self-interest ; you 
cannot expect your lodgers to tell the truth 
when you make them so comfortable." 

"No one, at all events, can accuse you of 
flattery," Mrs. JefHey often retorted. 

" That is because I have far too great a 
regard for you," was the plausible explana- 
tion ; and indeed, so far as Mr. Katzen was 
capable of feeling a regard for anyone, he did 
entertain some sentiment of the kind for the 
woman who had always believed in, and 
stuck fast to him through all sorts of chances 



i6 MITRE COURT. 

and changes — trusted and helped him, and 
given sympathy as well as many much more 
tangible proofs of confidence and friendship. 

Still, it was a bore that she would not con- 
ciliate her husband. How comfortable and 
friendly they might all have been together in 
Jack Jeffrey's little den, where Mr. Katzen 
never could flatter himself Jack felt glad to 
welcome anyone except Frank Scott ! How 
useful Mr. Jeffrey might have been to him 
in a hundred ways ! How much better a 
man's help than a woman's ! How far pre- 
ferable the assistance of a rational male crea- 
ture than any amount of kindness from a 
lady who needed the most skilful handling, 
who believed herself a diplomatist, a general, 
an administrator, and a financier ! 

" She thinks because she can manage her 
house that she could rule a kingdom," thought 
Mr. Katzen, with a shrug of his lean shoul- 
ders ; " but there, she is a good soul, though 
a vain simpleton. Over and over again, my 
Karl, you might have known what it was to 
lack a meal — many meals — but for the amaz- 
ing faith of Maria Jeffrey. And she has 
found no cause to repent her confidence. 



MR. AND MRS. JEFF LEY. 17 

No, there may be, as report states, people I 
have not paid, but Mrs. Jeffley is not among 
the number." 

Either report must have lied horribly, or 
else Mr. Katzen in the course of his life had 
paid very few people indeed. In many 
places there was an opinion he discharged 
no debt he could evade, and as we are often 
told there is never smoke without fire, it is 
quite probable that Mr. Katzen's erratic 
course through this wicked world might have 
been traced by the smouldering fires of un- 
liquidated liability. 

Under his rightful name of Karl Katzen- 
stein, he had in his days of comparative 
innocence involved himself in such pecuniary 
trouble that he was compelled to leave his 
Fatherland and seek better fortune in the 
United States, where both he and those who 
trusted him fared badly. After all, a man 
must learn his trade somehow ; and if Mr. 
Katzenstein found but little gold stick to 
his fingers while serving his apprenticeship 
as adventurer, who can judge him harshly on 
that account ? He gained skill and experi- 
ence ; and finally, thinking he had acquired 

vol. 1. 2 



MITRE COURT. 



as much knowledge as America was likely 
to teach him, he decided to bid that country 
farewell, and give Great Britain the benefit 
of his talents. It was then he made Mrs. 
Jeffley's acquaintance, and a very useful one 
he found her. Many a time he must have 
gone out breakfastless in the morning, and 
repaired to bed supperless at night, if the 
lady's faith in him had not been unbounded. 

And he never cheated her, never once. 
No, though he often went away for months 
together, he always came back and discharged 
his debt. 

He told her many of his troubles, dis- 
coursed to her concerning some of his plans 
— a man must have some one to talk to — - 
and Mrs. Jeffley's sympathy with the German 
was so complete he found it better to talk to 
her than anybody else. 

She thought him the cleverest person in 
the world. He could speak five languages 
fluently, and had a smattering of Russian 
besides; and poor Mrs. Jefrley, who could 
only utter her thoughts in English, and 
English often not the most correct, considered 
the way Mr. Katzen — he deemed it well, for 



MR. AND MRS. JEFF LEY. 19 

reasons which it is unnecessary here to state, 
to dock his name of the final "stein " when 
he took passage for England — was able to 
discourse with persons of many nationalities 
little short of miraculous. It seemed to her 
simple mind as good as conjuring ; and 
though she was honest herself as the day, the 
tricks by which he could get money " where 
another man would starve " excited her 
warmest admiration. She knew she found 
it hard enough to make both ends meet on 
Jack's regular wages. How Mr. Katzen 
could go out some days without a sixpence 
and come back with full pockets struck her 
as most extraordinary. Here was a person 
whose acquaintance was indeed something 
to be proud of. " Ah ! if poor Jack had been 
like him !" Mrs. Jeffiey would probably not 
have started her lodging-house, of which 
Mr. Katzen was so honoured an inmate. 

What did she not get for his benefit ? — a 
" tasty morsel " for breakfast ; a good juicy 
steak for dinner, which Mr. Katzen kindly 
ate, though under protest, "because," as he 
said, " you do so spoil your excellent beef by 
your barbarous cookery" — "A fellow, I'll 

2 — 2 



MITRE COURT. 



be bound," grumbled Jack Jeffley, "who 
never got anything better than sour cabbage 
and kickshaws in his own country !" — fruit by 
the bushel, pastry light and flaky, puddings 
cunningly concocted ; literally it was with 
Mrs. Jeffley a labour of love, catering for his 
excellent appetite. Peas for him were always 
dressed with sugar ; the salads he affected 
were smothered in oil, " till they were not 
fit for a dog," again to quote Mr. Jeffley, 
while according to the same authority " it 
was enough to make a man do something 
desperate" to see trout boiled, and boiled 
with vinegar. At the time we first meet 
them, Mr. Jeffley had long ceased to express 
his opinions to Mrs. Jeffley concerning the 
d — — -d German, but he held to them very 
firmly notwithstanding. 

A person without an ostensible calling, 
who had no regular employment and no 
business anybody could comprehend, who 
was scarcely ever in his office, if a " bit of a 
box stolen off the landing " in a house close at 
hand " could be called an office," about which 
Mr. Jeffley had his doubts, was never likely 
to do much o;ood for himself or anvbodyelse; 



MR. AND MRS. JEFFLEY. 



and what he, Jack, wanted to know was, why 
he should be waited upon "hand and foot" 
as if he were Rothschild or the Chancellor of 
the Exchequer. 

Jack was sadly jealous of Mr. Katzen. 
But he need not have been. Karl's attach- 
ment to Mrs. Jeffley was strictly platonic, 
and perhaps a little gastronomic, while Mrs. 
Jeffley's feeling for him entertained no 
thought of disloyalty to her husband. 
Naturally she did not care to hear Mr. 
Katzen sing the praises of any other woman, 
but that was nothing. As a rule, even men 
are not fond of hearing their acquaintances 
extolled, considering commendation of this 
sort a species of indirect reproach to them- 
selves. In this respect there is not much 
difference between one sex and another, and 
for that matter not a great deal to choose 
between animals and human beings. At heart 
most persons feel the same sort of pleasure in 
hearing anyone else extolled that a dog does 
in seeing a cat stroked, only civilization has 
taught us to dissemble our feelings, while the 
dog gives tongue to his in the frankest 
manner. 



MITRE COURT. 



Mrs. Jeffley, somewhat after the fashion of 
an animal, allowed her discontent to evidence 
itself, and Mr. Katzen often took an unamiable 
pleasure in stroking her fur the wrong way. 

He knew his friend thoroughly — -knew 
exactly what would annoy and what gratify 
her; and more than half his apparently care- 
less utterances had a point and meaning in 
them unintelligible to outsiders. 

John Jeffley felt, however, many of the 
German's remarks held a sting, and though 
he was not clever enough to perceive exactly 
where the sting lay, he resented them for his 
wife's sake. 

"If she could only see the little wasp as I 
see him," he thought, " she'd know he is not 
an insect ought to be buzzing about a respect- 
able house." 

The years had come, and the years had 
gone, however, and on Whit Monday, 
eighteen hundred and sixty odd, Mr. Katzen 
was still " buzzing about" Fowkes' Buildings 
in a very persistent manner. 

For some time affairs with him had been 
at very low tide indeed ; but for Mrs. Jeffley's 
timely help he must have raised money on his 



MR. AND MRS. JEFFLEY. 23 

watch and ring, massive chain and diamond 
studs, breastpin, and various other articles by 
which he set great store, and which, indeed, 
poor Jack Jeffley's wife believed reflected 
credit on the establishment. She had heard 
Mr. Katzen's valuables remarked upon, ap- 
praised, envied, and she often did wish, " that 
she did," her husband's nature contained a 
spark of ambition. "We might all be so 
differently off,'' she considered, " and John 
have as fine a ring as Karl Katzen, to say 
nothing of my seeing some chance of leisure, 
instead of working my fingers to the bone in 
Fowkes' Buildings." 

No one wanted Mrs. Jeffley to work her 
fingers to the bone anywhere ; but this was 
one of the many little fictions which enabled 
the ill-used lady to pose as a martyr before the 
eyes of admiring friends. 

Mr. Jeffley and Frank Scott had employed 
their rare holiday in visiting a friend who 
farmed a little land near East Ham, and as 
twilight was drawing in, they found them- 
selves on their way home once more in Great 
Tower Street, a trifle tired, perhaps, but in 
good order and condition. 



MITRE COURT. 



Their playtime was over, but they had 
enjoyed it thoroughly. Frank Scott carried 
a huge bunch of flowers that scented the 
road and filled the hearts of passers-by with 
envy, while Jack bore a basket containing a 
precious freight of new-laid eggs and golden 
butter, which he meant to keep for his own 
table, and give share to "no captain, or mate, 
or scrubby foreigner on earth." 

He had for the sixth time repeated this 
determination with great energy, when an 
unexpected sight met his eyes. Coming 
leisurely along Great Tower Street from the 
City, he beheld one foreigner he would have 
felt happy never to see again. 

" Why, here's that Katzen fellow," he said, 
turning to his companion. " I thought we 
were rid of him for a week or two, at any 
rate." 

" What can have brought him back ?" mar- 
velled Frank Scott. 

" No good, you may be sure." 

" He told me on Saturday morning he was 
£oinQf to Paris." 

" I wish he would go there and stay 
there." 



MR. AND MRS. JEFF LEY. 



25 



" Hush ! — he will hear you," expostulated 
Frank, for Mr. Jeffley in an access of energy 
had raised his voice somewhat unduly. 

" I don't care whether he does or not !" 
said Jack, lowering his tone, however. 





CHAPTER II. 



MR. KATZEN S NEWS. 



" 5?^^ 



tto 



i ERE I am, you see, like a bad 



% sixpence!" exclaimed Mr. Katzen 
0<||y gaily, at the same time extending 
his hand, which Mr. Jeffley felt forced to 
take, and shake with a heartiness he was 
far from feeling. 

" We thought you were on the other side 
of the water," he observed, merely because 
no other remark occurred to him. 

" I did not even start," said Mr. Katzen ; 
<; I got a piece of unexpected news after I 
left you on Saturday, which changed all my 
plans." 

" Good news, I hope ?" suggested Mr. 
Jeffley. 

"Well, you shall judge of that presently,'"' 



MR. KATZEN'S NEWS. V 

answered the foreigner ; " let us go into your 
room for a minute and summon your wife ; 
you stay too, Scott — I cannot have one friend 
absent while I tell what I have to tell." 

" He is going to be married, Frank," said 
Mr. Jeffley, who had already, with stentorian 
lungs, shouted for " Maria!" "Wife!" " Mrs. 
Jeffley!" till a shrill "What's wanted with 
Mrs. Jeffley now ? Oh! be quiet, do. I'm 
cominof," assured him his better half was on 
her way from the upper regions. 

" No; I am not going to be married, that I 
know of, just yet," said Mr. Katzen, in reply 
to the remark about matrimony. " I may be, 
though, for " 

At that juncture the end of Mr. Katzen's 
sentence was cut short for ever by a series of 
wifely expostulations emanating from Mrs. 
Jeffley as she came along the passage. 

" John, I wonder at you, screaming the 
house down, and Captain Hassell gone to 
bed and all. What do you want ?" she finished, 
entering Jack's room, which was almost in 
total darkness, owing to the narrowness of 
the court called Fowkes' Buildings and the 
gathering twilight. 



MITRE COURT. 



"What do I want ?" repeated her husband, 
who was accustomed to such forms of conju- 
gal endearment. " Bless you, I want nothing 
— but here's Mr. Katzen home, brimful of 
good news, and he won't tell Frank and me 
what it is till you are quite at leisure to listen 
too." 

"Mr. Katzen !" exclaimed Mrs. Jeffley, in 
astonishment, " I did not see you. Frank, 
light the gas." 

" Yes, Frank, light the gas," capped Mr. 
Jeffley, with a solemn gravity which on any 
stage must have brought down the house. 
" Here are matches, my boy." 

" I never thought of seeing you," exclaimed 
Mrs. Jeffley, addressing Mr. Katzen, her face 
literally beaming with smiles. 

" No more did I," supplemented Jack, 
in a tone which really meant, " No such 
luck ;" but neither his wife nor Mr. Katzen 
noticed it. 

" You told me you would be away for a 
fortnight at least," went on the lady. 

" Yes ; but I did not then know what was 
going to happen." 

" Why, what has happened ?" asked Mrs. 



MR. KATZEN'- S NEWS. 29 

Jeffley. " I can tell from your manner it is 
nothing very unpleasant." 

" It is nothing unpleasant — quite the other 
thing. It is just this : I am appointed Con- 
sul for New Andalusia ;" and Mr. Katzen, 
who had delivered his astounding intelligence 
in a voice he could scarcely steady, so great 
was his exultation, paused for the clapping 
and huzzaing he felt should follow. 

Instead there ensued a dead silence, which 
was broken at length by Mr. Jeffley asking : 

" Where the dickens is New Andalusia ?" 

"In South America," answered the new 
Consul, a little sulkily. 

" Then you will be leaving us !" cried Mrs. 
Jeffley, forgetting to congratulate her friend 
in the despair caused by the idea he would 
have to cross the sea and remain across it. 

" Leaving you — for what reason ?" re- 
turned Mr. Katzen, who, wrapped up in his 
own fresh importance, had failed to follow 
the lady's line of thought. 

" Because you will of course have to go 
and live in that country with the strange 
name." 

" Live there ! — not so. Oh no ! — I am 



MITRE COURT. 



Consul for New Andalusia in England, 
not Consul for England in New Anda- 
lusia. 

" Make yourself quite easy, wife," inter- 
posed Mr. Jeffley ; " we are not going to lose 
Mr. Katzen yet awhile." 

" That is a very kind way of putting the 
matter," said Mr. Katzen. " A Frenchman 
could not have phrased the matter more 
happily ; and what enhances the value of 
the compliment is, that you are always what 
a Frenchman sometimes is not — utterly sin- 
cere. 

He could not have refrained from the 
sneer, no matter what had come of it ; but 
nothing at all came of it, save that Jack 
Jeffley turned very red, and shifting awk- 
wardly from one foot to the other, muttered 
some word about his being "sincere enough, 
if that was all." 

"And so far," said Frank Scott — who, if 
he were young and poor, and unconsidered 
by the lodgers Mrs. Jeffley looked after and 
believed in, had yet a ready wit and a plea- 
sant manner of his own — " not one of us has 
expressed the smallest satisfaction concerning 



MR. KATZEN' S NEWS. 31 



Mr. Katzen's good fortune. Shall I speak 
first, Mr. Jeffley, or will you ?" 

" I am always glad to hear about anybody 
doing well," answered Jack, a little awk- 
wardly. " Mr. Katzen knows that ; and I 
hope with all my heart this appointment 
may land him in clover one day." 

" And so do I," cried Mrs. Jeffley. " Mr. 
Katzen, you may be sure, with all my heart, 
I wish you prosperity. It ought not to need 
words to tell you that." 

" No," answered Mr. Katzen, taking the 
lady's outstretched hand in both of his ; 
" actions speak louder than words, and your 
actions have spoken loudly to me for many a 
year." 

" I scarcely count, I suppose," added 
Frank Scott; "but I cannot help saying 
I am rejoiced to hear of your good for- 
tune." 

" For it is really good fortune, I suppose," 
suggested Mrs. Jeffley ; " it must be, or you 
would not look so pleased." 

"It is such good fortune," replied Mr. 
Katzen, "that if Mrs. Childs could manage 
anywhere to get us a couple of bottles of 



32 MITRE COURT. 



decent champagne, I should like to see 
glasses filled in its honour ;" and as the new 
Consul spoke, he put his hand in his pocket 
and drew forth a quantity of coin, amongst 
which sovereigns were as plentiful as shillings. 

" Bless and save us !" thought Jack Jeffley ; 
" do they pay them in advance ?" But he 
only said aloud, " There is no need to send 
Mrs. Childs on any such wild-goose chase — 
we have best part of a dozen still left of that 
Catawba young Morson brought me from 
America ; and though you may not think 
much of it, you'll find it a far better wine 
than anything Mrs. Childs is likely to get 
from a tavern on a Whit Monday night. 
And look here, Mr. Katzen — I know my 
wife has a bit of supper ready ; take share 
of it with us. I need not tell you, when 
Mrs. Jeffley is the provider, there will be 
plenty and to spare." 

" There is nothing but cold beef," said 
Mrs. Jeffley sadly. 

" Well, what can be better than cold 
beef?" asked Mr. Jeffley. 

" Especially with a good salad ! Let me 
mix the salad," entreated Mr. Katzen. 



MR. KATZEN' S NEWS. 33 

" Certainly, if you leave my name out of 
it," said Mr. Jeffley. 

" True, I forgot you like to eat your 
lettuce raw," said Mr. Katzen. 

" And so I do," remarked Frank Scott ; 
" and Mrs. Jeffley objects to oil, and cares 
only for vinegar." 

" Oh, you English, how funny you are !" 

' ; We are not the only funny people in 
the world, that is one comfort," retorted Mr. 
Jeffley. 

" We have not even the monopoly of 
queerness !" added Frank Scott, who was 
always ready with some word likely to avert 
a quarrel. 

" Though you are very queer," returned 
Mr. Katzen. " By-the-bye, I have not yet 
thanked you for your invitation, Mr. Jeffley, 
which I shall do myself the honour of accept- 
ing. I go to brush a little of the day's dust 
from my person, and then I return. An 
revoir." 

" You never said anything truer than 
that," observed Mr. Jeffley, as the door 
closed behind his wife and her lodger. 
11 Ail revoir, indeed — faith, it is always 

VCL. 1. 3 



31 MITRE COURT. 



revoir /" and Jack's face assumed an ex- 
pression he meant to be sarcastic, but which 
was only comical. " Read me this riddle, 
Frank : what is there about our little friend 
to inspire devotion ? Under the pretence of 
telling Jane to lay a cover for him, my wife 
has gone to put on her best bib and tucker 
in his honour, and if I am not much mis- 
taken she will take half-a-dozen of those 
new-laid eggs to make him an omelette. 
Then, as though all that were not enough, 
some one goes and gets him an appoint- 
ment as Consul — and we are all forced in 
consequence to tell untruths and say we 
feel glad " 

" So I do — and so ought you," answered 
young Scott. 

" And why, pray ?" 

" Because, now he is getting up in the 
world, he will very probably leave Fowkes' 
Buildings." 

" Leave Fowkes' Buildings ! He knows a 
trick worth two of that." 

" I am not so sure — besides, he may 
marry. If that handful of gold means any- 
thing, it means the ability to get money." 



MR. KA TZEN 'S NEWS. 35 

" I believe it to be all a flash in the pan." 

" You will find yourself mistaken, I hope," 
answered Frank; "and you know, Mr. 
Jeffley, you are glad the man has got a 
good berth — you couldn't wish ill to your 
worst enemy." 

" I should not like to see him brought 
home on a stretcher, with a broken neck — 
if that is what you mean — but I can't take 
to the fellow. Hang it ! I really did mean 
to be civil to him ; but I am sorry now I 
asked him for supper. Those good eggs 
wasted in an omelette stick in my throat." 

" Don't meet trouble half-way," advised 
the young man. "Anyhow, console your- 
self with the assurance that they won't stick 
in his." 

Mr. Jeffley burst into a hearty peal of 
laughter. " That they won't, I warrant," 
he said. " I only wish they would — no I 
don't. It would vex me if ill came to him 
in my house, and perhaps, after all, he is 
not so bad as I think him." 

Mr. Francis Scott wisely refrained from 
speech. Mr. Katzen must have been very 
bad indeed had he outstripped the measure 



MITRE COURT. 



of iniquity that gentleman considered him 
capable of compassing. 

" He is as bad a lot as ever drew breath," 
he thought ; " and though honest Jack has 
no need to be jealous, it will be a blessed day 
when he takes his departure. Consul ! I 
wonder what sort of people the New Anda- 
lusians can be when they choose him for 
representative. But he'll not stay long in 
Fowkes' Buildings. That, to quote Mr. Jeffrey, 
is as sure as God made little apples." 

Considering the diversity of temperaments 
gathered around the supper-table the meal 
did not go off so badly. Mr. Jeffrey beheld 
Mr. Katzen turn back his cuffs, smell the 
oil, hold the vinegar up to the light, put in 
a spoonful of this, and add a pinch of that, 
without audible remark. He was good- 
natured about the eggs, and he pressed the 
butter on the foreigner's notice ; he refrained 
from speech, though he considered that Mr. 
Katzen's nose assumed a disdainful ex- 
pression as it inhaled the bouquet of the 
Catawba ; while on his side the new Consul 
preserved an eloquent silence when Jack, 
after draining off about a pint of ale, declared 



MR. KATZEN'S NEWS. 



honest malt liquor like that was worth the 
whole of the sparkling wine in bond. 

They were all in the happiest mood ; 
Jack thinking pleasantly about that matri- 
monial suggestion hazarded by Scott, " a 
young fellow who has far more in him than 
anybody might imagine," as he often 
declared ; Mr. Katzen full of delightful 
plans for the future ; Mrs. Jeffley eagerly 
curious. 

" You will now take that beautiful ground- 
floor office you have been hankering after 
so long, I suppose," she hazarded, in one of 
the pauses of the repast. 

" Only wish I could," answered Mr. 
Katzen ; " but old Brisco let it last Septem- 
ber. I know he is ready to cry with 
vexation, for he can neither get rent from 
his tenant, who is a bad man, nor induce 
him to go. He wanted me to wait, but I 
said: 'No, my friend; while I had little 
money I was forced to wait. I will never 
wait again, if I can help it.' " 

"Just like you!" remarked Mrs. Jeffley 
admiringly. 

" No— no," went on Mr. Katzen, who, if 



3S MITRE COURT. 



he had found the Catawba wanting in many 
things he considered desirable, could not 
at least accuse the wine of lacking strength. 
" I wait no more. I have had my turn — 
let the others now take their turn. I have 
already got an office better situated than 
Botolph Lane, where I can do good for 
you ? " and he nodded to Frank Scott. 

" Thank you, Mr. Katzen," answered that 
youth ; " it is very kind of you to think of me." 

" I think of all my friends," said Mr. 
Katzen solemnly. " I am not, as some, 
forgetful in prosperity. The office I have 
got is in Mitre Court — as calm, as quiet as 
the old house. I should have preferred the 
old house, though — my luck in it was 
always well ; but it may be I shall have 
more and better luck in Mitre Court." 

"Where is Mitre Court?" asked Mrs. 
Jeffiey, just as her husband had asked the 
latitude and longitude of New Andalusia. 

"Off Milk Street, clear friend; but I shall 
drop the Milk and substitute Wood Street. 
It is all as one." 

" And what is your work ?" inquired Jack 
Jeffley, beautifully practical, 



MR. KATZEN' S NEWS. 39 

Mr. Katzen, who at the moment was peel- 
ing an American apple, suspended his occu- 
pation, and accurately balancing the fruit- 
knife on the first finger of his left hand, re- 
plied : 

" To do the very best I can for my- 
self." 

" A rather vague answer," said Mr. Jeffley. 

" I can't give you a better yet," answered 
Mr. Katzen. " Remember, I am only now 
in my new capacity — three days old. Give 
me a little more time, and I shall be able to 
tell you all. If I serve my adopted country 
well, I must, I should hope, serve myself 
well also. Take it for all in all, there is no 
such land on earth. Blessed in its climate, 
its government, its population, its minerals, 
its forests, its situation, its harbours, its 
capacities for producing grain and raising 
cattle, there is nothing under heaven New 
Andalusia needs except to be brought into 
closer connection with Great Britain ; and," 
finished Mr. Katzen, " I feel I am destined 
to bring about her espousals." 

"Bravo!" exclaimed Mr. Jeffley. "All I 
hope is, the marriage may not prove dis- 



4o MITRE COURT. 



astrous to Great Britain. We have taken 
to ourselves a lot of wives, and one way or 
another they have managed to give us a 
heap of bother." 

" This wife shan't," said Mr. Katzen. 
" No, not more than your dear best half, 
looking radiantly beautiful, seated opposite 
to yourself." 

The illustration was so exquisitely un- 
happy, that Frank Scott felt compelled to 
put his hand to his mouth in order to conceal 
a smile. 

" My best half doesn't look amiss," said 
Mr. Jeffley, wisely ignoring the first part of 
the foreigner's remark, and looking across 
the table with a proud and loving glance, 
in which there was mingled a dash of sad- 
ness unutterably pathetic ; " but we won't 
praise her to her face for fear — as she tells 
the young ones sometimes — of making her 
vain." 

"If hearing the truth could have spoiled 
Mrs. Jeffley, she must have lost her sweet 
simplicity long ago." 

" Mrs. Jeffley is not simple," interposed 
that lady, with a laugh, " and she does not 



MR. KATZEN'S NEWS. 41 

want any more compliments ; she knows all 
they are worth. Seriously, I am so sorry 
you cannot get those two beautiful offices ; 
I wanted some day to see the old painted 
panels, and the fine chimney-pieces." 

" I should have liked well, too, to see you 
puzzling your wise head over the Indians, 
and the animals, and the tropical trees. The 
series of paintings constitutes, I suppose, a 
whole story ; but what that story may be no 
one can tell now. There are two funny 
fellows riding on a rhinoceros, and there are 
others gathering; tobacco-leaves, and there 
are chariots drawn by some sort of deer, and 
something like a church, and white people, 
and sea and mountains. Ah, good Lord ! 
and am not I sorry ! it has just occurred to 
me that I could have said the tale the panels 
told me was the colonization and civilization 
and Christianizing of New Andalusia. More, 
as I stated before, I have always had good 
luck in that old house ; whenever I have left 
it to better myself, worse has followed. Well, 
I must try to get back there after a while. 
The old man believes in me. For all he 
is 



42 MITRE COURT. 



" Why do you not finish your sentence, 
Mr. Katzen ?" asked Jack maliciously. 

" Himmel ! because it cuts against my- 
self," answered Mr. Katzen, with appalling 
frankness. " I was going to say, for all he 
is so keen, so astute, so far-seeing, he has a 
faith in my power I have often lacked myself. 
To be sure, I have always paid him his rent, 
but that was mostly, perhaps, because he 
chanced to be too poor to do without 
it." 

" Why, I should have thought a man who 
owned such a house must be well-to-do," said 
Mrs. Jeffley, for whom the mystery associated 
with her lodger's landlord had always pos- 
sessed the fascination something unexplained 
of necessity holds for common-place minds. 

" He doesn't own the house — he rents it," 
explained Mr. Katzen for at least the fiftieth 
time ; " and then he has to pay rates and 
taxes, and get his money back as he can. 
What with one loss and another, and no 
business to speak of, and the wretched way 
he keeps the house, he must be as poor as 
our ancient friend Job, or our more modern 
acquaintance the church-mouse. Unless, in- 



MR. KA TZEN ' 5 NE WS. 43 

deed " added Mr. Katzen, struck by a 

sudden thought. 

Frank Scott lifted his head as the foreigner 
paused, and said, as if amused : 

"You are leaving all your sentences un- 
finished, Mr. Katzen, to-night. Unless 
what ?" 

" ' Unless' was only a sudden idea which 
occurred to me," replied Mr. Katzen. " I 
thought it meant something, but really it 
amounts to nothing at all. No man on earth 
would make such a believe about poverty as 
to eat as Brisco eats, lodge as Brisco lodges, 
live as Brisco lives, and dress as Brisco 
dresses." 

" How does the man live, then ?" asked 
Mr. Jeffley. 

" Like a pauper," was the answer. " He 
goes to bed as soon as the offices are closed, 
to save light and fuel ; to my knowledge he 
has worn the same old coat for the last six 
years ; he never spends a farthing on 'bus 
fare ; he manages somehow to exist on a diet 
which would starve a dog — dry bread, and 
milk and water, for breakfast ; an apple, and 
bread again, for dinner. He once bought a 



44 MITRE COURT. 



pennyworth of herrings when they were six 
a penny, and I know he had not finished 
them at the end of a fortnight. It is miser- 
able to see him." 

" Dear me !" cried kindly Mrs. Jeffley ; 
"and to think of all the things we have left 
over here — things Mrs. Childs and her niece 
can't get through. There is a quart of 
beautiful soup, all of a jelly, in the house 
now." 

" I shouldn't advise you to send it to Mr. 
Brisco, that's all," said Mr. Katzen. " I never 
shall forget the way he snapped off my nose 
one day when I proposed he should come out 
and have some dinner with me, I to pay the 
piper. I remarked, innocently enough, I 
thought he must be tired of stale bread and 
fruit, and that I should really enjoy seeing 
him eat a cut off a good joint for once. In 
a moment he had fanned himself into a white 
heat of passion. He was in such a rage, even 
his lips grew white. He is colourless and 
bloodless enough at the best ; but he got ab- 
solutely livid, and he drew himself up — up till 
I found myself looking at him with my chin 
lifted, and my head thrown back. ' Sir,' he 



MR. KATZEN'S NEWS. 45 

said, ' if you choose to swiil ale all day, it is no 
affair of mine ; if I prefer to live like a Chris- 
tian, it is no affair of yours.' No, no ! dear 
generous madam e ; take my advice, and send 
no cups of broth, or pieces of cake, or scraps 
of pudding, to my friend in Botolph Lane. 
If you do, you will most likely see them walk 
back again to your front door with a message 
you won't relish." 

" Faith, I think the old fellow is right, 
though," interposed Mr. Jeffley. "A man 
may be poor, but he needn't be a beggar." 

" I don't consider a man ought to count 
himself anything of the kind, if he lets a 
friend stand him a dinner," retorted Mr. 
Katzen. 

" Yes, if he can't return the civility," per- 
sisted Jack manfully. 

" What do you say, Scott ? Judge between 
us," said the new Consul. 

" You should not refer to me," answered 
the young fellow, flushing a little. ' ; I am 
under far too many obligations here to be 
able to speak impartially." 

" Tut, tut !" cried Mr. Jeffley, stretching 
out a stalwart arm, and touching Frank on 



46 MITRE COURT. 



the shoulder. " You are under no obligation, 
none at all. Quite the other way." 

" I am sure," added Mrs. Jeffley, " you 
have never had anything in this house but 
what you paid for most honourably." 

" There are things which cannot be paid 
for," murmured Frank Scott, with a tremor 
in his voice, and a look in his downcast face 
which filled Mrs. Jeffley with a feeling as like 
self-reproach as that estimable lady was ca- 
pable of experiencing. 

For a moment she was rent by a spasm of 
compunction. During the cold weather she 
had dealt out blankets sparingly, she had 
stripped his room whenever anybody else 
required pillows, or crockery, or looking-glass, 
or strips of carpet. She had stinted him in 
towels and chairs, and given him yellow soap, 
and docked the lad of fifty small luxuries 
which would have cost her little and been 
much to him, and yet he never complained, 
but seemed grateful. 

But no, she thought, he was grateful only 
to Jack, only to her as being Jack's wife ; and 
the foolish woman, who could not understand 
the patience and affection of both husband 



' MR. KATZEN'S NEWS. 47 

and lodger, the male tolerance of female short- 
comings, the male thankfulness for such kind- 
ness and attention as modern civilization 
permits the "weaker vessel" to evince, 
hardened her heart once more against Frank 
Scott, whom she had long previously decided 
to be as poor a creature as Jack Jeffley. 

Prosperity is too strong a tonic for some 
natures. Prosperity had been a very bad 
medicine indeed for Mrs. Jeffley. 

" And does that girl," she asked hastily, 
reverting to the original question, " also live 
on dry bread, apples, and herrings ?" 

" I should say not," answered Mr. Katzen, 
lifting a pair of sleepy eyes. " Judging from 
her appearance she lives on the fat of the 
land. She is getting extremely pretty — 
growing in grace with God and man. If she 
were well dressed she would astonish the 
natives hereabouts. What a figure she has ! 
What a little spitfire she is !" 

" Mrs. Childs always said she w T as a nasty 
sly cat," commented Mrs. Jeffley. 

" Upon the whole I think Mrs. Childs was 
wrong. She may be a cat, but she is not 
nasty — quite the contrary. She is what you 



43 MITRE COURT. 



English are so fond of calling ' nice.' She 
is well-favoured, well-shaped, good to look 
upon, good to talk to, even when she flares 
up and lets that big temper of hers blaze out." 

" Blaze out ! To whom ?" 

"Well, to me, for example," said Mr. 
Katzen, laughing, as if the whole matter were 
a most excellent joke. "' I have known her 
so long, I have known her so utterly, any- 
body might have thought she could not fail 
to understand Karl Katzen. Yet to-day, if 
you believe me, she figuratively buried every 
claw she owns in this poor flesh of mine." 

"What had you done to her ?" asked Mr. 
Jeffley. 

" Done ! — I done ! — upon my sacred oath, 
nothing. All I said was, ' Look here, Abby : 
a great stroke of luck has come to me ; get 
yourself a new dress on the strength of it,' 
and I laid down a sovereign." 

" Yes ?" said Mrs. Jeffley interrogatively. 

" She took the money up and threw it 
across the table at me. If it had hit the 
mark, I should have come back to you with 
a black eye, but being in a rage she aimed 
wide. My God ! I should like to marry that 



MR. KATZEN 'S NEWS. 49 

girl and tame her!" and Mr. Katzen laughed 
softly once again. 

"Why, you would be far, far too old for 
her !" declared Mrs. Jeffrey, dealing the 
cruellest blow she could. 

Even while he winced Mr. Katzen an- 
swered : 

" She is old enough in all but years, and 
of that small failing she must mend rapidly." 

" Yes, she will be twenty before she can 
look about her," said Mrs. Jeffrey irritably, 
while Jack and his friend maintained an 
amazed silence. 

" That is true," agreed Mr. Katzen ; " three 
years at her time of life pass like the shadow 
of a dream. When twenty is passed we begin 
to feel the grinding of the wheels, which, as 
that good Solomon says, drag the nearer we 
approach our inevitable end." 

" I don't believe Solomon says anything of 
the sort," answered Mrs. Jeffrey ; and it was 
noticeable after this she devoted many of her 
words and a considerable amount of her 
attention to Frank Scott. 

Often that evening, ere he sought repose 
in that chamber well supplied with blankets, 

vol. i. 4 



5o MITRE COURT. 



pillows, and " all other appurtenances to 
boot," Mr. Katzen, watching Mrs. Jefrley's 
manoeuvres, and hearing what Mrs. Jeffley 
said, smiled a secret sort of smile to himself, 
which meant that he understood and appre- 
ciated the position perfectly. 

It is really most curious to consider how 
exhaustively foreigners comprehend the weak- 
ness of all human beings except themselves ! 








CHAPTER III. 




A PLAINT. 

ESTROYING angels nowadays 
assume the form either of a 
speculative builder or a clamorous 
shareholder. 

At this present time of writing, the latter 
is working his wickedest will in the heart 
of the City. By virtue of an Act of Parlia- 
ment passed entirely in his interest, though 
ostensibly for the benefit of a long-suffering 
public, he is removing old landmarks, sweep- 
ing away streets, burrowing through the earth 
like a mole. Ere many months elapse, he will, 
through neat iron gratings, be vomiting up 
steam and smoke into the busiest thorough- 
fares ; while next year may find him quietly 
slipping another Bill through Committee, em- 

4—2 



52 MITRE COURT. 

powering his company to utilize St. Paul's for 
a terminus. 

If Stephenson could revisit this world, how 
pleased he would be to see the full extent of 
the destruction already wrought by his inven- 
tion ! Never before in the history of man- 
kind w T as such a transformation effected ! 
And yet, with all its railways, there probably 
could be found no city harder to get into or 
out of, than London, which, once quaint, pic- 
turesque, and interesting, is fast becoming a 
mere junction, diversified with huge blocks 
of ugly buildings that will all most likely have 
to come down ere long, to make way for the 
transit and housing of rolling-stock. 

In the country, the speculative builder is 
changing the face of Nature ; in the City, his 
twin-brother is wrecking the works of Man. 
To them nothing is sacred ; the living - and 
the dead they are alike prepared to sacrifice. 
The altars of ancient Moloch were at least 
reared amongst groves. His high places 
were shadowed by swaying branches and 
dancing leaves, but our modern Molochs cut 
down and spare not every green thing they 
see, and foul every fair stream they come 



A PLAINT. $3 

across ; they erect shoddy villas, and run up 
stucco terraces, and plan brick-and-mortar 
wildernesses, which they facetiously call 
" Gardens." Their course may be tracked 
by reason of heaps of rubbish and burning 
clay and volumes of smoke, long trails of 
cinders and dust and desolation, and starved 
flower-beds and yellow gravel and woe ! 

As " new and powerful " engines pant their 
dreary way from Queen Victoria Street to the 
Tower, they will pass an interesting corner of 
Old London, which, though no doubt doomed 
in the near future, has as yet escaped demo- 
lition. A hard fi^ht was made over the 
Church of St. Mary-at-Hill. No doubt there 
was some knight-errant connected with the 
parish, who failed to see why even a nine- 
teenth-century dragon should have everything 
his own way. It seems strange that in an 
age which complacently permitted Crosby 
Hall to be turned into a restaurant ; allowed 
such monstrosities as the galvanized sheds at 
Cannon Street and Charing Cross to live ; set 
up a ridiculous griffin, brandishing a tea-tray 
at Temple Bar ; and holds its peace while 
railway bridge after railway bridge is thrown 



54 MITRE COURT. 



across the river ; which is satisfied to see the 
finest site in Europe spoiled by the erection 
of tasteless buildings, without form and void 
of colour ; which thought no shame to allow 
tall stacks of offices to hide the beautiful tower 
of St. Mary Aldermary, and never winced 
when three old churches vanished in the 
twinkling of an eye — anyone could be found 
strong enough and bold enough to protect an 
edifice so little known and so out-of-the-way 
as St. Mary-at-Hill. It is, however, not more 
strange than true. No glamour of romance 
hangs round the church, though of ancient 
date, Richard Hackney having presented to 
the living so long ago as 1337. No part of 
the original building remains except three 
walls ; the very windows were changed from 
Gothic by some Vandal towards the end of 
the last century; the interior fittings date no 
further back than 1672. There are not any 
monuments of peculiar interest, a goodly col- 
lection of worthy citizens have mouldered 
aw r ay to dust within its walls ; but the place, 
unlike its near neighbours, All Hallows, 
Barking, and St. Olave, Hart Street, has no 
name famous in history associated with it ; 



A PLAINT. 55 

neither can it boast, as may St. Dunstan-in-the- 
East, situated within a stone's-throw, of having 
been served by eminent preachers. Never- 
theless, the whole parish is interesting, both by 
reason of its surroundings and the field its quiet 
annals open for imagination to rove through. 
We do not know who lived in the ancient red 
brick houses we meet with in the small courts 
and passages just out of Love Lane, but 
from the windows, flush with the walls, faces 
of the past look forth to greet our own. 
Through doorways, adorned with canopy and 
architrave, we can see the men and women 
of former times on the first Sunday after 
Midsummer-day pace slowly to St. Mary's, 
to hear the annual sermon preached before 
the Fellowship Porters. 

" This antient custom" has now fallen into 
desuetude, but fancy, cleaving the mists of 
years, can give us back that annual procession 
of Fellowship Porters, each man carrying a 
" large nosegay " from hall to church. And 
to those who know St. Mary's — " well wains- 
cotted," with " oak pews," " enriched with 
cherubim, festoons," an " altar-piece of 
Norway oak, with a handsome cornice and 



56 MITRE COURT. 



pediment," an " interior over the middle aisle 
graced with a very light and beautiful cupola" 
— it is perfectly easy to picture that solemn 
march to the altar, where " every porter 
deposits his benevolence, for the use of the 
poor and to defray the expenses of the day, 
into two basins provided for the purpose. 
After having performed this ceremony, the 
deputy, merchants, with their wives, children, 
and servants," once walked in order " from 
their separate pews to perform the same 
solemnity." 

The scent of those old-world flowers fills 
the church. Amid the Bibles and Prayer- 
books on the ledge, in front of every man, 
woman, and child, lies a nosegay, presented 
overnight to the " merchants and respect- 
able families in the neighbourhood " by the 
members of the Company. The air is sweet 
with stocks and lavender and cabbage roses, 
and all those fair vanished flowers that once 
went to make a perfect bouquet. It was a 
fanciful and charming custom which need not 
have been forgotten, even in these days of 
hard utility. The Lion Sermon is still 
preached, and the flower service held in St. 



A PLAINT. 57 

Katharine Cree. Annually pennies are 
tossed on an old tombstone in St. Bartholo- 
mew's graveyard. Bancroft's sermon has 
not yet been discontinued, though it is said 
on the occasion his body is now not taken 
out of the coffin — perhaps because there is 
no body left to take — in order to be exhibited 
to the almsmen of his charity. All these and 
many other customs still flourish in their 
pristine freshness, but the pleasant spectacle 
of hundreds of Fellowship Porters walking 
to church and carrying ''great nosegays" is 
never beheld. It is dead as the bright buds 
made up hundreds of years ago into posies, 
which lived their little hour, and drooped and 
faded — dead as the children who once played 
about St. Mary's Hill — dead as the men and 
women who bore their cares and sorrows as 
well as their fragrant flowers into God's very 
house. 

Well, perchance 'tis best so! In a world 
where nothing abides for ever, save that 
Divine message which to-day floats clear and 
sweet over the busy haunts of toiling men, as 
it did nigh upon two thousand years ago 
across the star-lit plains of Palestine, we need 



58 MITRE COURT. 



scarcely regret that the sweet custom died 
while there was yet some of the old City left 
to mourn its departure. 

A much less poetical observance, how- 
ever, might be with the greatest advantage 
revived. In the year 1701, during the reign 
of William III., an order was made by the 
Court of rulers, auditors, and assistants of 
the Company of Watermen and Lightermen 
of the river Thames, observing " that several 
watermen and their apprentices, while they 
are rowing upon that river or at their plying- 
places between Gravesend and Windsor, 
often use immodest, obscene, and lewd ex- 
pressions towards passengers and to each other, 
that are offensive to all sober persons, and tend 
to the conniption of youths /' it was therefore 
ordained, " That watermen or lightermen 
convicted of using such expressions forfeit 
2s. 6d. for every such offence ; and if any 
waterman or lighterman's apprentice shall 
offend in the same manner, his master or 
mistress shall on his conviction forfeit the 
same sum, or in case of their refusal, the 
offender shall suffer such correction as the 
rulers of the Company shall think fit and 



A PLAINT. 59 

necessary. The forfeitures when paid to be 
applied to the use of the poor, aged, decayed, 
and maimed members of the Company, their 
widows and children." 

If half-a-crown were now exacted for every 
offensive word uttered on the silent highway, 
and the towing-paths, not merely might the 
destitute of Billingsgate be supported, but 
the whole of the poor of London ! On a 
Sunday morning in summer, for example, 
what a sweet crop could be garnered, from 
Gravesend to Windsor! The imagination 
reels when it considers the amount of bad 
language which in the course of one day 
alone is thrown on the Thames and abso- 
lutely wasted, not a solitary sixpence being 
in these days harvested out of it ! 

Side by side on the spot we have been 
considering three lanes run almost parallel 
to each other from Lower Thames Street up 
the hill leading to Eastcheap and Little 
Tower Street — to wit, St. Mary-at-Hill, Love 
Lane, and Botolph Lane. They lie close 
together, a little paved alley, called Church 
Passage, connecting St. Mary-at-Hill with 
Love Lane ; Botolph Alley leading from the 



6o MITRE COURT. 



latter into Botolph Lane, where stands the 
Church of St. George, with which is united 
the Parish of St. Botolph, Billingsgate. 

In a courtyard that might well escape the 
observation of passers-by, entered as it is 
through an archway of the most unassuming 
appearance, there stands even to this day 
an old and most beautiful house. 

It is placed with its back to Love Lane, 
while the front looks out on a square paved 
with cobbles, and surrounded by buildings 
presumably much more modern than the 
mansion once inhabited by no less a person 
than Sir Christopher Wren. 

To pass out of the City streets, where 
staring new warehouses are fast elbowing 
the more ancient buildings off the face of 
the earth, into that spacious hall paved with 
black and white marble, is like stepping back 
a couple of centuries in England's history. 
There are no such halls nowadays. Where 
could such another staircase be found ? See 
the massive balustrades, the carved balusters; 
notice the easy ascent of the oak steps, which 
lead by three short flights to the first-floor. 
There is a dignity about the mansion 



A PLAINT. 6 1 

nineteenth-century architects toil after in 
vain. The hall occupies the whole depth 
of the house ; it is over thirty feet long and 
nearly twenty wide. A double sweep of 
stone steps leads up to the front door, and 
we can stand on the wide level flagging at 
the top, and, looking over the iron rails, 
gaze round the quiet courtyard and take a 
peep down at the dog-kennel formed by 
leaving an opening under the steps, and the 
" dog-lick " hollowed out of the solid stone 
pavement that runs below. Who owned the 
last dog who kept guard there ? and of what 
breed were the animals that slaked their 
thirst from that cool basin, while St. Paul's 
was rising from its ruins, and Wren weeping 
tears, which did not disgrace his manhood, 
over the cruel and selfish thwarting of that 
magnificent ideal which, if carried out, would 
have rendered London's Cathedral a truly 
grand and fitting monument for its architect ? 
Wren has gone where we may fain hope 
there is a "Resurgam"* for ideas still-born 

* " In the beginning of the new works of St. Paul's," 
writes Sir Christopher Wren in the '"Parentalia,'' "we are 
told an incident was taken notice of by some people as a 
memorable omen. When the surveyor in person had set 



62 MITRE COURT. 



on earth, and plans it was impossible for him 
to perfect here. The dogs that once bayed 
the moon, touching with her silver splendour 
the trees in St. Botolph's silent graveyard, 
have for two hundred years been unconscious 
of the curses or caresses bestowed upon 
them by the lackeys and varlets, fit pre- 
decessors of our modern grooms and butlers. 
The houses of a great overgrown, dusty, bust- 
ling city are jostling each other, even as the 
men and women are crowding and crushing 
the stronger upon the weaker, in the streets 
which once were quiet and quaint, rich in 
ancient architecture, streaked with those tones 
of colour it needs the passage of centuries to 



out upon the plan the dimensions of the great dome, and 
fixed upon the centre, a common labourer was ordered to 
bring a flat stone from the mass of rubbish (such as should 
first come to hand) to be laid for a mark and direction to 
the masons ; the stone, which was immediately brought and 
laid down for that purpose, happened to be a piece of a 
gravestone with nothing remaining of the inscription but 
this single word in large capitals, 'Resurgam.' How much 
the architect himself was struck by the circumstance we see 
by the decorations of the pediment over the northern 
portico, where an exquisitely sculptured Phcenix rising from 
the flames, with the motto ' Resurgam,' has been placed in 
accordance with the idea suggested by the incident." — 
Knight's " London." 



A PLAINT. 63 

paint to perfection ; and yet — and yet this 
wonderful old mansion for a while stands 
apart and quiet, as a gentlewoman of the 
olden time, with soft white hair and placid 
face and winning manner, may still now and 
then, at the rarest of intervals, be encountered 
walking solitary to that earthly dwelling from 
whence at some not remote time her remains 
shall be carried more reverently, let us hope, 
than the " building materials " of the old 
Botolph Lane dwelling which will be under 
the hammer before we can look about us. 

Why does not the City buy such houses 
and preserve them intact ? Why should we, 
even as we look upon this vestige of a 
once picturesque and interesting London, be 
compelled to forecast that not remote time 
when its walls will groan under the shame of 
staring bills announcing its " materials " are 
on a certain day to pass under the hammer ? 
Then, as in a terrible nightmare, we see it 
" lotted off" — its chimney-pieces, its wains- 
cots, its panels, the noble doorway, the leaden 
roof, from which, it may be, Sir Christopher 
himself beheld London's "tall bully" rising 
to the skies, and turned to view the lantern 



64 MITRE COURT. 



church spire, which tradition says was de- 
signed by his daughter. 

It is a pretty fancy/ so do not let us in- 
quire too closely into its truth. There, at 
all events, are the leads whence it is easy 
nowadays to see the Crystal Palace, or, easier 
still, to break one's neck, if such a course 
seem more agreeable. 

Off those leads a stone might be pitched 
into the tower either of St. George or St. 
Mary. From Love Lane an ancient and 
fish-like smell arises like a mist ; it is so 
dense, it almost overpowers the various 
odours of fruit that abound in the neighbour- 
hood. Pineapples, oranges, lemons, bananas, 
forbidden fruit — they are all there struggling 
for mastery with the fish ; but the fish elbows 
them out of court. Now and then a whiff 
of lemon or a gust of pineapple cleaves right 
across the courtyard ; but the dominant scent 
is of herrings, fresh and stale ; of plaice that 
has been sold and eaten, but the scent of 
which still lingers around ; of mackerel and 
whiting, and all other fish that swim within 
easy range of London. They are here 



merged into one oreat whole — into one vast, 



A PLAINT. 65 

solid, indescribable smell the inhabitants say 
they never notice — nay, that they assert does 
not exist. 

" How should it ?" they ask. " The streets 
are cleaned twice a day, and the gutters 
flushed with carbolic acid." (Satan casting 
out Beelzebub.) 

If they like the atmosphere, and triumph- 
antly quote the Registrar-General's returns, 
why should anyone else grumble ? No ! 
though there are courts and alleys the 
stranger ought to " back " along, the first 
whiff to unaccustomed nostrils proving well- 
nigh unendurable if met face to face. 

Queer facts as well as smells meet one in 
these lanes. Take this for example. Did 
you, reader, ever hear of innocent brazils 
heating like a haystack ? They do, though ; 
they have sprung the flooring of the old 
house, as you can see if you will descend 
from the roof and enter a small room on 
the ground-floor, now used for hanging 
up boys' caps, once in the occupation of 
G. Brisco, the "colourless and bloodless" 
man, who spent many a dreary and weary 
and lonely year in the old house which 

vol. 1. 5 



66 MITRE COURT. 



must once have been so fair and goodly a 
dwelling. 

By the steam given off from those and other 
nuts, the boards have been prized from their 
nails, and lifted from an inch to half an inch. 
Strange, is it not ? and yet, perhaps, no 
stranger than that the panels painted by 
one Robinson (whoever he might be), in the 
year of grace 1670, as all who choose to go 
and see can read, are strained and cracked 
by a similar action on the part of oranges. 
Methinks were I, the writer of this book, and 
in my modest holding of a human being one 
of the humblest of created mortals, in any 
capacity free of the City of London — say 
liveryman, common councillor, deputy-sheriff, 
sheriff, alderman, Lord Mayor — I would make 
the City — which after all cannot be accounted 
so very big, though undoubtedly it is very 
great — my study : I would know every court, 
lane, alley, house, exhaustively ; and were 
there still left an old mansion, hallowed by 
fact or tradition, I should try to save it ; and 
if I could not, I would enter my protest- 
uselessly, it might be, yet with no uncertain 
sound — against the Philistine utilitarianism 



A PLAINT. 67 

of an age which, desecrating the word " pro- 
gress," sweeps away, for the sake of accursed 
Mammon, every ancient landmark, and will 
lay us open an hundred years hence to the 
gibes of a posterity who — Heaven grant! — ■ 
may have better taste than to turn such a 
residence, as has been tried in this chapter 
to portray, into a school for children of the 
parish. 

It seems incredible, but it is simply the 
truth. 

Billingsgate youth at this present moment 
is wiping its feet at the back entrance of Sir 
Christopher Wren's old house, making its 
riotous way up his servants' staircase — in his 
withdrawing-room, the walls of which are 
adorned with imbecile pictures, putting up 
its hands ere answering some most foolish 
question. Lord, grant me patience while I 
write ! 

O City ! once interesting beyond ail 
power of speech — now a mere aggregation 
of offices and warehouses, swollen with 
wealth, insolent with prosperity — hearken to 
my plaint ! 

With an exceeding love have I, an alien, 

5—2 



68 MITRE COURT. 



loved you. In your better time I knew you, 
and there was scarce a stone in your pave- 
ment, or house in your streets, but had a 
fascination for one who deliberately elected 
to strive and interweave the touching ro- 
mance of daily life and eternal struggle with 
the dry details of commerce. Your sooty 
trees were more to me than forest or upland ; 
the wave of humanity, rushing eternally over 
your stony-hearted pavements, seemed a 
grander, mightier sight than Atlantic billows 
racing like war-horses upon an iron-bound 
coast. Scarce a man or woman in your 
midst but whose face held to my fancy a 
story and a pathos no one, perhaps, would 
have felt more astounded to see put into 
print than its owner ; with toil and travail I 
learned the ins and outs of your commerce ; 
of the best God vouchsafed to me, I gave 
you all ; and for myself the result has been 
well-nigh nil. I piped to you and ye did not 
dance, I mourned and ye did not weep ; yet 
this I could have borne, for in authorship, as 
in all art, there is a reward the world wots 
not of. 

What I cannot bear, however, is your 



A PLAINT. 69 

changed and desecrated face. As the years 
count, I have not been for so long a time 
one of your strange and unwelcome children, 
yet you are no more the London of my 
dream and of my memory than some shame- 
less woman, flaunting her guilty face in the 
gaslight, is to the girl who stood, with the 
apple-blossoms falling on her young head, 
while listening to the whispering of a lover 
who meant her no wrong. 

To look at you now is worse than looking 
on a grave, because we believe that some- 
where — somewhere — the one we loved is 
living still in all great and noble qualities 
unchanged ; but you — what have you given 
in lieu of your picturesque and gracious past, 
in which Pepys penned his diary, and his 
great contemporary, whose " soul was like a 
star and dwelt apart," who "had a voice, 
whose sound was like the sea," wrote those 
stately sentences which more resemble the 
full swell of some noble organ than ordinary 
prose ? 

I say nothing of kings, queens, martyrs, 
patriots, who have passed through your 
streets. It is enough to think of the men 



70 MITRE COURT. 

who lived in them, and for whose memory 
you have not even the decent respect a son 
might entertain for some common-place 
mother. 

Out upon you ! Anathema maranatha ! 
Was it not enough that you let a railway 
bridge be flung across Ludgate Hill ; that 
you are sitting calmly with folded hands 
while the Thames is being spanned by iron 
girders ; that you are permitting the finest 
thoroughfare in the world to be disfigured by 
buildings destitute of beauty ; that under the 
name railway termini you allow galvanized 
sheds to remain, which are a horror to 
behold ; that you let chance after chance slip 
away of acquiring river frontages on the 
Surrey side, where all the Government 
offices could be splendidly placed, and con- 
stitute such an architectural effect as might 
gladden the soul of Sir Christopher himself; 
but you must sweep away, in your greed for 
gain and ground-rents, every landmark of 
the better time in your history, when another 
god than Mammon was worshipped ? What 
have I not seen swept away as of no 
account ? Even in my own poor work 



A PLAINT. 71 

scarce one stone is left upon another to tell 
where the people who glided out of shadow- 
land to walk and talk with me — who became 
parts of my being, who were bone of my 
bone, and flesh of my flesh, more real to me 
than ninety-nine out of a hundred of the 
thousands of human beings I have actually 
known — lived, and played out their little 
tragedies. 

Almost before his story was told, the 
house in which Hugh Elyot died fell under 
the hammer. On its site there is now a 
rookery of small weekly tenements. If 
George Geith strayed to-morrow into " Fen 
Court" he would not recognise the changed 
face of the once retired nook where he and 
Beryl were so happy. Over the graveyard 
Yorke Forde must have looked upon so 
often, the trains have for many a year run in 
and out of Cannon Street Station, whilst 
even the railing over which she leaned while 
telling her shame to Luke Ross is altered. 
Ere " The Senior Partner" had reached its 
final number, that North Street where Alfred 
Mostyn fried his rashers, and wound up his 
clock, was improved off the face of the earth. 



72 MITRE COURT. 



As I write, it may be, the fiat has gone forth 
dooming the old house off Botolph Lane to 
destruction ; in to-day's paper tenders for the 
building materials are invited for a far more 
ancient and interesting relic of Old London. 
Most of the famous taverns have gone — what, 
indeed, has not ? Why should you care, O 
overgrown and unwieldy City, so long as 
stocks and shares rise and fall — so long as 
bargains are to be made, and differences 
pocketed ? 

You have swept the old away — will the 
new be better ? Romance must give way 
to Reality — Poetry to the Money Article in 
the daily papers. In the future who will be 
found possessed of sufficient courage to write 
a novel about your present ? The man does 
not exist, neither will he ever exist, who 
could evolve sentiment out of rows of ware- 
houses and blocks of offices — your termini, 
your buildings, your cold, cheerless rooms, 
fitted with all the latest appliances of dis- 
comfort, where men sin and toil for money 
to be spent in homes they only sleep at. 
When Macaulay's New Zealander at last 
stands on that broken arch of London 



A PLAINT. 73 

Bridge and looks over your ruined city, let 
him breathe no sigh of regret, for with your 
own hand you will have long before destroyed 
everything worth regretting. 

This is my plaint now ended. We may 
therefore go back to the marble-paved hall, 
to the panelled dining-room, the beautiful 
ceilings, and lovely chimney-pieces in Sir 
Christopher Wren's old home. 





CHAPTER IV. 



IN THE OLD HOUSE. 




VERYWHERE persons are to be 
met with leading lives which seem 
strange to their fellows. 

Either they have dropped behind the 
world, or voluntarily stepped out from it. 
The causes that impel them to avoid con- 
tact with other human beings may be widely 
different, but the result is the same — an in- 
creasing dislike which finally becomes actual 
hatred to society of any sort. 

Poverty, disappointment, over-sensitive- 
ness, remorse, crime, sorrow — anyone of these 
may drive a man to seek isolation from his 
kind. 

In some cases circumstances extend his 
reputation far beyond the limits of local 



IN THE OLD HOUSE. 75 

gossip, as witness the celebrity which the 
most unhappy hermit of Stevenage finally 
attained ; but, as a rule, these " eccentric 
characters " are seldom heard of till they 
have ceased being odd for ever, when a 
newspaper paragraph tells us they were once 
living in our midst. There is no better 
place than London for indulging a fancy for 
solitude. In all parts of it there have ever 
been, and no doubt are now, people dwelling 
quite alone without friends, without employ- 
ment, often without even visible means of 
support. 

Death, or choice, or necessity has cut 
them loose from the ties of relationship ; if 
their lot was cast in some vast wilderness 
they could not be so desolate as in their 
voluntary exile from humanity. 

To ordinary minds there is something 
appalling in the fact of such existences ; we 
lack the key which would perhaps unlock the 
mystery, and we also lack comprehension of 
how any misfortune, great though it may have 
been, should obtain such a mastery over the 
mind as to induce a living soul to practically 
cut itself off from the great congregation of 



76 MITRE COURT. 



breathing, striving, struggling sympathetic 
men and women. 

Think of the so-called " old witch of 
Stamford Street," and of her houses there 
and in Snow Hill, which she deliberately 
suffered to go to wreck and ruin merely to 
spite her heir. What a life that was to lead ! 
With means sufficient to render existence 
happy, useful, blessed, she burrowed in the 
wretched basement of one of her dilapidated 
dwellings, and dressed so that when she 
took her walks abroad the boys hooted her. 

Think of the gentleman who in a past age 
shut himself up and dwelt alone near Fore 
Street, never stirring outside the door, or 
admitting anyone inside it, for fifty years. 
Consider that other gentleman of good 
fortune who for so long vegetated in a large 
suburban residence, keeping only one ser- 
vant, a man whom he never permitted to 
enter his bedroom. Each day he bought a 
pound of candles, which he burnt ; a pound 
of coffee, which he drank ; and a pound of 
butter, wherewith he anointed himself. We 
do not call such people mad, yet surely 
they can scarcely be accounted sane. 



IN THE OLD HOUSE. 77 

To everyone with whom he came in con- 
tact Mr. G. Brisco, of Botolph Lane, was a 
puzzle. How or why he led the life he did 
seemed to them as inexplicable as the con- 
duct of the person who stopped for the third 
of a century at " The Horns," Kennington, 
settling his bill every day, must have done to 
the then landlord of that inn. In every 
business transaction Mr. Brisco proved him- 
self able and astute. His abilities were 
beyond the average. His speech and 
manners were those of a person superior to 
most of the individuals with whom he came 
in contact. How then did it, could it 
happen, people asked themselves, that he 
remained so poor, and held so resolutely 
aloof from help and ordinary intercourse ? 

He could not be in hiding, for he walked 
the City streets at high noon ; it seemed 
incredible that he should be cruelly stinting 
himself in order to pay off any old debt. 
Nevertheless it seemed more incredible still 
that so clever a man could not make even a 
moderate income. For a time speculation 
exhausted itself about him ; and then, seeing 
the same system of self-denial going on day 



78 . MITRE COURT. 



after day and year after year, curiosity almost 
died out, only reviving when any incident 
occurred to brine: Mr. Brisco and his affairs 
again on the carpet. 

There was nothing genial about him. He 
possessed a caustic tongue, and there were 
few who cared to test the quality of its edge 
twice. 

" Do you come from Yorkshire ?" inquired 
a man one day, whose name was Jopp. 

" Did I ever ask you whether you came 
from Whitechapel ?" was the retort. 

"No — certainly not," said Mr. Jopp, 
wincing a little, for his maternal grandfather 
had been a butcher in that district. 

" Then, if I wish to know nothing about 
your birthplace, why should you trouble 
yourself about mine ?" 

No matter what questions were put, Mr. 
Brisco answered them somewhat after this 
fashion. Where he had sprung from ; how 
he chanced to be so poor ; for what reason 
he lived so singular and isolated a life — were 
mysteries to those around him. Mr. Katzen's 
account of his mode of existence, though 
evolved from that gentleman's inner con- 



IN THE OLD HOUSE. 79 

sciousness, was in the main correct : his 
clothes were shabby, his person emaciated, 
his food of the poorest ; in that great house 
he dwelt solitarily, for he made no companion 
of the girl who had drifted quite by accident 
across his path. 

But for her he would most probably have 
been starved to death long previously; he 
certainly could not have struggled through 
an illness, brought on by cold and privation, 
except for the way in which she, at the time 
quite a child, nursed and tended him. 

The interest of all the neighbours had then 
been aroused, and their sympathies quickened 
by the girl's devotion, by the man's mortal 
sickness. 

Help and kindness were offered and 
accepted freely ; but whenever Mr. Brisco 
recovered from his delirium, and understood 
what was going on, he crushed their friendly 
feelings as ruthlessly as we have seen all 
beauty pressed out of a fair flower between 
the yellow leaves of some musty book. 

After that he was left alone — the right 
hand of fellowship was not again extended. 
Naturally people do not like their good 



So MITRE COURT. 

offices repulsed. Few greeted him even 
as he passed up and down the lane, and 
those who did spoke coldly. He had sown, 
and he was reaping ; unlike some, the harvest 
seemed to his mind. He desired nothing 
from his fellows save to be left in peace — and 
at last his fellows were more than willing to 
gratify his desire. 

Between the old mansion and its occupant 
there existed a subtle sort of fitness not 
always to be found. 

The latter-day type, for instance, of com- 
monplace City man — loud-talking, familiar, 
easy in language as in morals ; hairy as 
Esau, giving promise of growing stouter 
than Ehud, who would have rejoiced to paint 
over the panels in the dining-room and had 
them picked out in red or blue by " some 
chap up to his business ;" kept sherry and 
champagne in a convenient cupboard ; sat 
preferably on the table with one foot stretched 
down to the floor while he roared over the 
jokes of his "pals,'"' "devilish good fellows" 
— might, though doubtless a useful and ex- 
cellent person in his way, have appeared out 
of place in a dwelling where grave merchants 



IN THE OLD HOUSE. Si 

once resided and dispensed princely hospi- 
tality. 

But in the sere and yellow leaf period of 
its life there seemed a certain fitness in see- 
ing a wasted figure wandering like a ghost 
through the building: — flitting from room to 
room in the twilight when business was over 
and the offices closed, and the men who 
occupied them during the day had departed, 
and a silence resembling death brooded over 
the house. It was then — clad in an old grey 
dressing-gown, and wearing a pair of list slip- 
pers that made no sound — he roamed through 
the solemn stillness, making no echo. In the 
moonlight, and when the stars were shining, 
he would pace the leads for hours, seeing 
in heaven the vision of only one angel — on 
earth but one great sorrow, his own. Coming 
suddenly in these vigils upon this spectre, 
anyone might have been excused who had 
taken him for one from the dead — his colour- 
less face, his ragged beard, his straggling 
grey hair, often looked weird and awful in 
the unreal light by which preferably he took 
his rambles through the dim, deserted house, 
up and down the leads, both when the gas 
vol. i. 6 



MITRE COURT. 



lamps showed objects in a lurid transparency, 
and when the first streaks of dawn began to 
reveal the masts of the ships lying at anchor 
hard by, and the great City tied and bound 
in sleep. 

There was no one, however, who did meet 
him unexpectedly at such times ; no — though 
often a young girl would run swiftly up the 
narrow staircase winding to the roof, and 
saying, "It is too late" (or "too early," as 
the case might be) " for you to stop here any 
longer," take his cold hand in hers and lead 
him away, unresisting, to bed. 

This was the girl, grown tall and shapely, 
who had nursed him through that illness 
with a sage tenderness which won for her 
the suffrages of two parishes. As far as 
looks went she deserved all the praise Mr. 
Katzen thought fit to bestow on her. 

She was pretty. She had dark hair, and 
dark, deep, beautiful eyes, and in her cheeks 
the rich mellow tint of a ripe peach showed 
through the clear brown of her complexion. 
Her waist was small and round, her figure 
upright, and — yet again Mr. Katzen was 
right — she did not look as though she were 



IN THE OLD HOUSE. 



starved ; rather she was the embodiment of 
young, vigorous, perfect health. Spite of 
all her night watches, her broken rest, her 
risings before the lark, or that bird's London 
equivalent, the nearest cock — all the terrible 
hardships and miseries of her early childhood 
— no stronger or more useful piece of vanity 
in her teens than Miss Abigail Weir could 
have been found in the four parishes close at 
hand, from corner to corner of which, "if it 
were not for the houses," said the maiden, 
" we might play at ball." 

Poor, fatherless, friendless Abigail Weir — 
poor, cold, hungry, forlorn, desolate little 
waif — she had crossed Mr. Brisco's life after 
the strangest fashion. When first he came 
to the old house in Botolph Lane he resided 
there in utter solitude. Once the door closed 
behind the last clerk who left the offices, no 
human being remained to keep Mr. Brisco 
company. What he did in the long evenings 
could only be conjectured, and after a few 
months there were few who concerned them- 
selves about the matter. Not a glimmer of 
light ever shone down into Love Lane from 
any window of the old house. Perhaps, as 

6—2 



84 MITRE COURT 



Mr. Katzen suggested, he went to bed tired 
out, for he worked hard all day ; more likely 
already those restless wanderings, which 
as time passed on grew so frequent, had 
recurred ; there was space and to spare in the 
ancient building for abundant exercise. In 
the early morning a woman always appeared 
to "do up" the offices. Summer and winter, 
rain, hail, frost, or snow, she arrived from 
Water Lane, where she resided in the top 
story of a house, the basement and ground- 
floor of which were devoted to coals, coke, 
Sarson's vinegar in pint bottles, and green- 
grocery, and at once proceeded, without 
pausing even to remove her pinched and 
shabby black bonnet, to polish the grates, 
wash over the marble hearths, lay fires, and 
11 wipe down" the stairs. Once a week there 
was a great cleaning, which occupied the 
whole of Saturday afternoon. There was 
much to do, but Mrs. Childs did it unassisted 
by even a pint of beer. Mr. Brisco was not 
a man to pay more to anyone than he bar- 
gained for. 

Just, he might be. " For my part," Mrs. 
Childs stated, "I am not going to say against 



IN THE OLD HOUSE. 85 

that — what he tells you he'll do, he does. 
When he makes a bargain he sticks to it, but 
then it is all a bargain ! He'd stand out for 
a week over a halfpenny ; and as for perqui- 
sites, I haven't seen the colour of one in this 
old ramshackle house. I told him all the 
other gentlemen I'd served — and they were 
gentlemen, some of them making no more 
about putting their hand in their pockets 
and drawing out half a sovereign, or maybe 
a sovereign, at Christmas-time, than if it had 
been a shilling — let me have the papers and 
any bottles or waste there might be ; but he 
snapped my nose off. ' You'll get neither 
paper nor waste here, Mrs. Childs,' he 
answered quick-like, just as though I'd 
wanted to steal something ; ' I know enough 
about that sort of thine- !' " 

"'And precious little all your knowing 
has done for you,' I thought to myself. No 
one can attend to his proper business, and 
look after cheese -parings too. If he had 
not made himself so fast, taking the bread 
out of poor people's mouths, in a manner of 
speaking, he might have had a better coat 
to his back this day ; and that's my opinion, 



MITRE COURT. 



and I don't care if he hears me saying 
so!" 

For the space of what good Mrs. Childs 
called two weary years she had "done" for 
Mr. Brisco by contract — she had scrubbed, 
blackleaded, hearthstoned, window-cleaned, 
brick-dusted, and emery-powdered for that 

gentleman all at per week, oilman's 

goods included. She did not indeed bear the 
heat and burden of her labour entirely alone, 
On Saturdays, and sometimes on other days 
when extra work was in progress, she brought 
with her a niece called Sophia, to which name 
Mrs. Childs gave an additional charm by 
pronouncing it " Sophiar." Sophia had a 
large head, no neck worth mentioning, no 
discernible waist whatever, thick ankles, big 
flat feet, and awkward hands with stout red 
arms to match. She always kept her mouth 
open, and usually came furnished with a good 
cold. She had round colourless eyes, very 
lieht hair, fat cheeks, a face well dotted over 
with freckles, and she was not quite wise. 

Had the senilis and knowledge, however, 
of all the generations of this world from its 
creation been centred in Sophia's person, 



IN THE OLD HOUSE. 87 

Mrs. Childs could not have spoken more 
highly of her cleverness, or laid more stress 
on it. ' 

" She is able to clean a room as well as I 
can," the aunt was wont to say triumphantly. 
"You wouldn't believe the work she gets 
through. You should just see my boards ; 
they're as white as snow," which was not, 
perhaps, so much a matter to be wondered 
at, since sometimes, when the fit took her, 
Sophia would scrub out Mrs. Child's front 
room half-a-dozen times in a day. 

The aunt was constantly getting the niece 
" little places," giving her the best of cha- 
racters, and the highest of recommendations ; 
but as Sophia, in addition to several other 
failings, had many personal habits prejudiced 
individuals, unaccustomed to " make allow- 
ances," were disagreeable enough to find 
fault with, Sophia as a rule never kept her 
situations beyond four- and- twenty hours; 
then Sophia, her cold, and her wardrobe 
(wrapped neatly up in a square piece of old 
black cashmere), returned to Mrs. Childs' 
roof-tree, where she gave that worthy woman 
an agreeable insight into the domestic affairs 



MITRE COURT. 



of the family foolish enough to decline her 
further services. 

A cruel lapse of memory on the part of 
Nature had sent Sophia into the world 
without a palate ; but Mrs. Childs under- 
stood her speech well enough to gather there 
was scarcely a house in the district destitute 
of what she termed a " skellinoton." 

O 

For two years, then, she had been spending 
her health and strength in the ungrateful 
task of trying so to please Mr. Brisco as to 
wrinQf from him a higher weeklv wage — 
when, " one Wednesday evening as ever 
was," after office hours she had to q:o to the 
old house to " clear up the mess " left by a 
departing tenant, who had occupied two 
offices on the first-floor and the whole of the 
extensive basement. 

The place was in a "fine litter," in such a 
litter indeed that both Mrs. Childs and 
Sophia, when they surveyed the scene of 
future action, stood for a moment appalled. 

As regarded the cellar, they had nothing 
to do. By order of the departing tenant, his 
man swept the straw and rubbish up into a 
heap, for the next comer to have cleared 



IN THE OLD HOUSE. 89 

away at his leisure ; but the offices, so Mrs. 
Childs affirmed, " made her flesh creep." 

The Qrentleman who rented them had 
never, for a matter of twelve months, let 
anyone into them except when he was present, 
and " I leave you to guess," said Mrs. Childs, 
"only you nor nobody could guess, the state 
those two rooms were in !" 

It was a bitter night in January. Snow 
lay thick in the courtyard. Not a star could 
be seen. 

" I had to kindle a spark of fire to hot a 
drop of water, so as to keep my hands from 
beinQ- numbed with the cold — lono- as I have 
been ' going out,' ' Mrs. Childs' favourite 
technical ellipsis, " I never remember such a 
cruel job as that. I don't know how we got 
through with it ; but we did somehow, all but 
the windows, which I told Mr. Brisco I couldn't 
and I wouldn't undertake in the dark. I had 
only the dusting to finish and the putting to 
rights to see to, so I thought I'd just send 
Sophiar home, and let her be getting a 
mouthful of supper ready — I'm sure we both 
wanted it bad enough — and I stopped on 
and was settling up the rooms, for the fresh 



no MITRE COURT. 



tenant wanted to come in next morning, when 
who should appear sudden but Mr. Brisco. 
He had on an old coat, and he held a dark 
lantern in his hand, and his face was the 
colour of chalk ; and when I saw T him a sort 
of tremblinp- came over me — for I thought of 
Guy Faux, and that we were all alone in that 
great house, parted off from the world as one 
might say. You see, the offices where I was 
at work didn't look out on Love Lane, but 
faced the square ; and I knew he might 
murder me a dozen times and nobody could 
hear me." 

" Mrs. Childs," said Mr. Brisco, who 
certainly had not the smallest intention of 
killing and slaying that estimable woman, 
" do you know anything about children ?" 

Certainly the question seemed strange, but 
Mrs. Childs w r as in her own opinion equal to 
answering that or any other which might be 
propounded. Nevertheless, as true genius 
is always modest, her reply partook of that 
quality. 

" Well, sir, it's not for me to say — I never 
was one to talk about my own doings ; but 
when you come to a matter of six poor little 



IN THE OLD HOUSE. gi 

clears left motherless, Sophiar being the eldest 
but two of the lot, and me a struggling widow, 
and their father out of his head with grief, 
and losing his rest, and not in work besides, 
I think " 

"Yes, Mrs. Childs, and so do I. Kindly 
oblige me by stepping down into the cellar 
lor a minute." 

" Into the cellar, sir !" returned Mrs. Childs, 
now quite satisfied Mr. Brisco had gone sud- 
denly mad. " If you'll excuse me, sir, I'd 
rather not." 

" Oh, but you must," he persisted ; "there's 
a little girl there, and I don't know what to 
make of her." 

"A little girl!" repeated Mrs. Childs 
" There can't be any little girl in the cellar." 

" There is, though," he persisted. " I 
thought I would see all was safe below, but 
I had hardly got to the bottom of the steps 
when I felt that I was not alone — that some- 
body or something besides myself was in the 
place. I threw the light round and about, 
but I could see nothing. Then I listened 
and heard a faint gasping noise. Guided by 
the sound, I made my way to a heap of straw 



92 MITRE COURT. 



and dirt the men had piled against the old 
wine-bin — still I could see nothing ; but when 
I tossed the straw over, expecting to find a 
cat or dog, I saw a child. Come down — I 
can't tell whether she is dying or not." 

Still properly and prudently incredulous, 
but feeling nevertheless very certainly that 
" you could have knocked me down with a 
feather,'' Mrs. Childs reluctantly followed 
Mr. Brisco downstairs (" I wouldn't have 
gone first had it been ever so," she subse- 
quently stated), and into the huge basement 
of the old house. 

The cold was piercing, the air of the cellar 
struck chill and damp like a grave ; the weird 
light of Mr. Brisco's lantern cast strange re- 
(lections on the paved floor, on the roof 
tapestried with years of dust and generations 
of cobwebs. Packed up against one of the 
wine-bins was a mound of straw and rubbish, 
and half buried amongst this lay a little figure 
stretched out full-length, apparently asleep, 
and moaning as if suffering cruelly. 

" Is she dying ?" asked Mr. Brisco, holding 
his lantern so that the rays fell full on the 
child's face. 



IN THE OLD HOUSE. 93 

" Dying ! not a bit of it — she's shamming, 
that's what she's at. Here, what are you 
doing ? Get up out of that !" and suiting her 
action to her words, Mrs. Childs with a vigor- 
ous jerk dragged the creature from its lair on 
to the hard cold floor. " I'll give you some- 
thing !" she added. " I'll teach you to sneak 
into houses. Now don't g-o on making: be- 
lieve. Stand up on your feet, and tell us 
where you come from." 

Staggering; as if she were drunk, the girl 
opened great dark eyes of terror, and crying, 
" Don't beat me, don't beat me — I wasn't 
doing anything !" fell, a poor bundle of tatters, 
at Mr. Brisco's feet. 

" What can we do ?" asked that gentleman 
helplessly. 

" If you'll stop here, sir, I'll run for the 
police," answered Mrs. Childs, greatly excited. 
" Likelv as not there's a gang- of them about, 
and they've smuggled her in to open the 
door in the dead of night ;" and Mrs. Childs 
was about to speed on her errand, when 
Mr. Brisco stopped her. 

" Wait a minute," he said. " Don't go just 
yet. 



94 MITRE COURT. 



" We'll all be murdered in our beds !" ex- 
claimed Mrs. Childs. 

" Be calm. You won't, at any rate," he 
answered. " This girl is starved," he went 
on, raising her. " Poor little wretch ! I 
wonder where she comes from." 

" She's no good, wherever she comes 
from," was the reply evolved in a wonderful 
spirit of prophecy from Mrs. Childs' internal 
consciousness. " You'd best not touch her, 
sir — like enough, if so be she's not shamming, 
she's sickening for fever or smallpox. It 
won't take me a minute to fetch a police- 
man. He'll soon make my lady speak. 
They're up to all these sorts of dodgings and 
devices." 

Mr. Brisco did not take the slightest notice 
of the charwoman's suQ-<Tested advice. For 
answer, he only carried the waif back to her 
bed of broken straw, piled some of it over 
her emaciated body, and then saying, "If you 
have finished upstairs, I need not detain you 
any longer," made way for her to precede him, 
which, after a feint of shrinking back, and 
" You go first, sir," Mrs. Childs did with an 
alacrity that savoured of fear. 




CHAPTER V. 



MRS. CHILDS INTERROGATED. 




ROBABLY in the whole of London 
no cleaner house could have been 
found than Mrs. Jeffley's. 

It was scoured, and hearth-stoned, and 
polished, and chamois-leathered, till its 
darkest places absolutely shone. 

" There is no hole-and-corner work in my 
place," Mrs. Jeffley declared with natural 
pride, and this was quite true. Her linen, 
got up in the country, smelt sweet and whole- 
some ; everyday her floors were washed over; 
every week her windows were cleaned ; every 
morning her step was whitened ; every Wed- 
nesday and Saturday her kitchen was turned 
inside out. She did not stint soap, or powder, 
or soda, or Bath-brick, or emery powder, or 



96 MITRE COURT. 



anything the oilman in Crutched Friars with 
whom she dealt could provide. 

Her house was clean as a new pin ; there 
was literally no dirt about it, save that con- 
veyed away into Water Lane hard by, each 
night, by one person, and that person Mrs. 
Childs. 

As the Israelites sent the devoted goat 
laden with all their sins out into that great 
and terrible wilderness, so Mrs. Childs on her 
own person seemed, when she bade good- 
night, to bear off the accumulated grime of 
each long day. Years of charing had come 
and gone since she left Mr. Brisco and took 
service under Mrs. Jeffley ; indeed, her de- 
parture from the one situation and her entrance 
into the other was more rapid than the transit 
of the twelve tribes from the plains of Moab 
across the Jordan. A land of promise 
Fowkes' Buildings truly proved to one who 
had long been wandering through the arid 
wilderness of a house "let out in offices," and 
where, to quote Mrs. Childs' forcible simile, 
there was not enough "food lying over to 
feed a flea." Leaving Mr. Brisco was her 
own act and deed, yet she never forgave him 



MR S. CHILD S INTERROGATED. 97 

for totally severing the connection. " With 
a ' look in' from me now and again," she was 
wont to declare, " Sophiar could have got 
through all there was to do and more, 
and the few halfpence would have come 
in handy, rubbing along as I am forced to 
do." 

Being compelled to "rub along" without 
the assistance of Mr. Brisco's halfpence, Mrs. 
Childs concentrated her remarkable powers 
of mind on pleasing Mrs. Jeffley, which she 
did with such success that, though cooks and 
housemaids, "generals" and "plains," came 
and went, she remained. 

It might have been thought that in so 
thriving and well-managed an establishment 
the work could have been got through with- 
out the aid of an outsider. This was not so, 
however, and Mrs. Childs knew the reason 
why. Mrs. Jeffley could not keep her servants. 
Young and old — plain and pretty, fair and 
dark, short and tall — English, Irish, Scotch, 
and foreign — Churchwomen, " Romans " (as 
Mrs. Childs termed the creed presided over 
by his Holiness the Pope), Dissenters of all 
colours and every imaginable shade — an ad- 

vol. 1. ■;..• 7 



93 MITRE COURT. 



vanced lacly who believed in nothing — the 
result was the same. 

Sometimes one of these various persons 
" put in " three months, but, as a rule, four 
weeks proved more than sufficient. The 
number of servants Mrs. Childs had " spoke 
to friendly " when they arrived was only 
equalled by the number who had " taken 
themselves off" with only a nasty toss of their 
heads ; the boxes dragged by them upstairs 
in faith, were pretty evenly balanced by those 
lugged down into the hall with much burning 
of spirit and secret malediction. 

Tireless herself, Mrs. Jeffley thought those 
in receipt of wages should be tireless too. 
Ever ready to please any liberal lodger, Mrs. 
Jeffley could not conceive what Kate and 
Ann and Polly found to grumble about, when 
asked to do the simplest thing not in the 
regular routine. 

She, however, was working for herself; 
they were working for her. Naturally, Kate, 
Ann, and Polly took a different view of the 
matter. Perhaps it was wrong for them to 
do so, but the naturalness cannot be denied. 
What almost passes belief, however, is, that 



MRS. CHILDS INTERROGATED. c 9 

Mrs. Jefiiey went on hoping one day she 
would meet with a paragon. "Just like you, 
Mrs. Childs," she often said, "but who has no 
encumbrance, and can live in the house. ' ; 

" That's the very thing you want, ma'am," 
agreed Mrs. Childs ; " and I only wish I could 
tell you where to lay your hand on a person 
who would see to you and think for you and 
consider you as you ought to be considered 
and thought for and seen to." 

Mrs. Childs never was able to tell Mrs. 
Jeffley where to find the domestic phcenix she 
desired to capture, neither did she offer her- 
self as a substitute for the more splendid and 
complete ideal that lady had formed. 

Mrs. Childs was, indeed, to put the affair 
in homely phrase, far too old a bird to be 
caught by chaff, or anything else. Pounds of 
lime would have failed to snare her. Better 
to her seemed the old bed in Water Lane, in 
which the feathers were well nigh dust, than 
all the new-fangled spring and horsehair 
mattresses in Mrs. Jeffrey's house ; better the 
Pembroke table drawn triangular-wise almost 
to the hobs, the tea brewed till black, the 
muffins toasted by Sophia's fingers — the 



MITRE COURT. 



"relish" of whatever kind it might be — than 
all the ' ; waste and plenty" of the kitchen in 
Fowkes' Buildings. 

" I must keep a home for the sake of the 
children," she was wont to declare, and though 
the children — who, by the way, were not hers 
— never came near their devoted aunt, and, 
with the exception of that charming fixture 
" Sophiar," made themselves conspicuous by 
their absence, the excuse served its purpose 
of standing between Mrs. Childs and a too 
eager world. 

This was the reason she appeared each 
morning in Fowkes' Buildings with the milk, 
clad in severe black worn in memory of no 
one in particular ; and provided with two 
aprons — a holland of surpassing and surpris- 
ing whiteness, and a "coarse," which, though 
rough in the grain, and unbeautiful as regards 
texture, was also clean and capable of endur- 
ing many things. 

When she left at night, both aprons, as 
well as Mrs. Childs herself, were black as if 
they had all been up a few of the Fowkes' 
Buildings chimneys. Layer after layer of 
dirt had been steadily painted on ; the filth 



MRS. CHILD S INTERROGATED. 



of the whole house seemed to be accumulated 
on Mrs. Childs' own person — floors, fires, 
knives, boots, coal-cellar, grates, kettles, 
carpets, were laid under contribution, and 
the result was a finished whole of griminess 
not to be described in words. 

As for meals — though, when the subject 
was much and gracefully pressed, Mrs. Childs 
felt she could not always be refusing to " sit 
down " — the devoted woman preferred to 
take them standing. 

She had a ''mouthful" of bread-and-cheese 
while washing-up the breakfast things, and 
she dearly liked a glass of beer standing 
beside her in the sink — not that Mrs. Childs 
was a glutton, or given in the smallest degree 
to intemperance ; but these modes of victual- 
ling enabled her at once to maintain the 
physical strength she needed, and to keep 
her industry well in evidence. 

"The best of them," said Mrs. Childs 
oracularly, the term referring to employers, 
" are apt, if they see you resting for a minute, 
to think you are lazying." 

As a general principle, it may be laid down 
that servants do not like a master or mistress 



MITRE COURT. 



whom they can fool. Under the "iron-heel" 
employes produce their best work, develop the 
sweetest virtues. After all, reduced to plain 
words, what was the rule of that golden time 
when men and women stopped twenty, thirty, 
forty years in one employ, but one of the 
strictest despotism ? It was then man and 
master, slave and owner ; now the tables 
are reversed. Mrs. Jeffley, who would have 
been a most kind and considerate slave- 
owner, did not find without eternal harrying 
she could get her labour performed properly, 
even for large wages ; and Mrs. Childs, who 
was able to get through an enormous amount 
of work for twelve shillings a week and her 
food, in her heart despised Mrs. Jeffley, arid 
considered how much better she could have 
managed a house, had heaven only given her 
some money, and a connection, and a soft, 
easy, good-natured " fool of a husband" like 
Mr. Jeffley. 

But Mrs. Childs did her work. Early and 
late, and during the whole day, she was at 
everybody's beck and call. She knew on 
which side her bread was buttered. For 
the first time during her widowed life she 



MRS. CHILD S INTERROGATED. 103 

had fallen into clover, and she did not mean 
to be turned out of it if she could avert such 
a calamity. 

Nevertheless, in the strongest citadels 
there is oftentimes a weak point of which 
the citadels themselves are not aware. Mrs. 
JefHey's weak point was vanity, and Mrs. 
Childs knew that. Mrs. Childs' weak point 
was Sophia, and Mrs. Jeffley knew that. 
Some day, it might be, Mrs. Childs' valour 
would overcome her discretion ; who could 
tell ? If ever that day arrived, for a cer- 
tainty she would charge the enemy's camp, 
and while inflicting 'great disaster come to 
grief. Meantime, she was poor, patient, 
hard-working, willing Mrs. Childs, waiting 
quietly on that Whit-Monday night in Mrs. 
JefHey's kitchen, till it should please her mis- 
tress to appear, and signify that she wanted 
nothing more. 

She had waited a long time — one apron 
coiled ud around her waist as though it had 
been the tail of a serpent ; the other packed 
into a roll like a currant dumpling. On the 
kitchen table lay tied in a cloth the things 
she had been told she could take home. 



104 MITRE COURT. 



During the course of twelve hours, liberal, 
impulsive, silly Mrs. Jeffley was wont to be- 
stow many such benefactions. One by one 
Mrs. Childs laid them on a shelf which came 
to be devoted exclusively to her "perqs.," 
till — before the witching-time, which beheld 
her vanish, arrived — a goodly assortment of 
eatables w r as collected. 

Mrs. Childs had taken possession of a 
chair. In spite of the unusual circumstance 
of having given herself a " rub over," she 
looked extremely dirty, and she was almost 
asleep ; but when Mrs. Jeffley, in a brown 
silk dress, came rustling into the kitchen, the 
poor toiler woke again instantly, and, rising, 
stood in a deferential attitude awaiting her 
employer's pleasure. 

" I am afraid we have kept you sadly late 
to-night," said Mrs. Jeffley. 

" Oh ! that don't signify, 'm — not at all, 
'm. I thought I would wait in case you 
wanted anything more. Susan has gone to 
bed — I told her I knew you wouldn't wish 
her to sit up. Poor girl ! she has to be astir 
early." 

" Yes ; and she seems a capital one for 



MRS. CHILD S INTERROGATED. 105 

early rising. I really think she will do," 
said Mrs. Jeffley, strong in that faith which 
usually, when the sweeping of new brooms 
is in question, endures for about a week. 

" She seems a very still sort of young per- 
son," answered Mrs. Childs, who excelled 
in a species of damnatory acquiescence. 

" I think she will do. I hope she will," 
repeated Mrs. Jeffley. " Well, I won't keep 
you any longer." 

" You are sure there is nothing else you 
can remember, 'm ?" — which speech might 
indeed have been dictated by a spirit of 
subtle irony. " Because you know, 'm, I'll 
do it with pleasure." 

"No, thank you, Mrs. Childs. I'm sure 
you must be tired enough. You have had 
your supper ?" 

" Susan wanted me to take some along 
of her," was the two-edged answer, " but 
I thought I'd wait, and eat a mouthful at 
home with the child. Even if she's gone 
to bed, nothing will content her poor heart 
but to rise the minute she hears my foot 
on the stair." 

Having finished which affecting statement, 



io6 21 IT RE COURT. 



Mrs. Childs re-tied her bonnet, re-adjusted 
her old rusty shawl, and, taking up her 
bundle, remarked : 

" These are the pieces, 'm, you were so 
Q'ood as to tell me I might have." 

" You have not forgotten the knuckle of 
ham ?" 

' No, m. 

" Nor the piece of steak-pie ?" 

" No, W 

" Nor the remainder of that bread-and- 
butter pudding ?" 

" No, 'm ; which'll all make a nice bit of 
picking for Sophiar to-morrow." 

" And remind me to look you out the pair 
of boots I was talking about." 

" I'm sure, 'm, I return you many thanks." 

'• No need to do that," said Mrs. Jeffley. 
" Oh ! I knew there was something I wanted 
to ask you. Do you ever now see the girl 
that lives with Mr. Brisco ?" 

Mrs. Childs laid down her bundle again — 
she understood there was more to follow. 

" Yes, 'm, I see her often — but never to 
speak to. When we meets, as we can't help 
meeting, she either looks straight before her, 



3IRS. GUILDS INTERROGATED. 107 

or else turns her head away, as if I was be- 
neath eyes to rest on." 

" She has grown very pretty, I hear," 
hazarded Mrs. Jeffley, half showing her 
hand. 

"She wouldn't be my taste," answered 
Sophia's aunt, with a good deal of acrimony. 

" But she is pretty, is she not ?" 

" Well, 'm, every man has his own notion 
of beauty. I've even heard of some as ad- 
mires a cast ; so it's quite likely Miss Weir 
may have found somebody that thinks her 
a Venus because she's a tawny. My idea of 
beauty is a good complexion ; but that may 
be owing to my knowing no better." 

" She is very dark, then, is she ?" asked 
Mrs. Jeffley, with whose face no fault could 
have been found on that score. 

" There are those might call her dark. 
I'd say she was yellow," was the uncom- 
promising reply. 

" Like a gipsy ?" suggested Mrs. Jeffley 
tentatively. 

" Not exactly ; gipsies have beautiful black 
Hashing eyes, and coal-black hair with a wave 
in it. What people find to talk about in Miss 



io8 MITRE COURT. 



Abigail Weir beats me ; to my notion she is 
most ordinary." 

" People clo talk about her, then ?" 

" Yes ; just the common sort, you under- 
stand — not ladies like you, 'm, but the poorer 
kind of shopkeepers round the lanes. It is 
her impudence does it," finished Mrs. Childs 
viciously. "If ever there was a saucy young 
slut, it is the girl I saw with my own two 
eyes found in Mr. Brisco's cellar by Mr. 
Rrisco himself; and if he doesn't rue the day 
he didn't take my offer to run for the nearest 
policeman, I'll " 

At this point Mrs. Childs paused, simply 
because she really could think of no alterna- 
tive strong enough to fit the position. 

" But what is the matter with the girl ?" 
asked Mrs. Jefrley. 

"In a manner of speaking, everything," 
was the answer ; "she's bad, root and branch. 
I know things about her she mayn't like to 

o J 

hear one of these days : and if I have much 
more of her nonsense, I'll up and tell her 
what she believes is dead and forgotten. I 
declare it makes me sick to see her running 
into the Rector} 7 , and tripping about St. 



MRS. CHILD S INTERROGATED. 109 

Mary-at-Hill as if the parish belonged to 
her. My word, if it hadn't been for the 
foolishness of that poor old man, she'd have 
been brought up in the workhouse, and 
forced to eet her livingf harder than she 
does." 

It is improbable that Mrs. Childs had ever 
read Shakespeare, yet while she spoke she 
felt stirring within her the spirit which 
prompted the Duchess to say : 

" Could I come near your beauty with my nails, 
I'd set my ten commandments in your face." 

As she stood beside the table with the light 
from the lowered gas throwing her features a 
little into shadow, she looked very shrewish 
and vixenish indeed. 

As a rule, Mrs. Childs sheathed her claws, 
but on the subject of Miss Weir she could 
not speak with equanimity ; the rise of that 
young person stirred all her venom. She 
was wont to go out of her way often only 
in order to meet Abigail, and on the occasion 
of these encounters her scorn and disgust 
equalled that "upstart's" own pride. 

There had been between them passages 
of arms with which the world was not ac- 



MITRE COURT. 



quainted, and though they now maintained 
a strict neutrality so far as speech went, it 
was armed on both sides. As James Hannay 
said about the war between the Grocers and 
Licensed Victuallers, at a time when the 
wine and tea controversy had reached its 
height, " If the one charged with grape, the 
other returned with canister;" so Mrs. Childs 
and Miss Weir were both keeping their 
powder dry for any emergency which might 
ensue. 

" I have never been quite able to under- 
stand " began Mrs. Jefrley. " But I am 

keeping you, Mrs. Childs." 

" Don't speak about that, 'm ; it's a plea- 
sure to serve you. As I've often said, as 
Sophiar could tell you, it was like getting" 
into heaven out of the worse place to change 
from Botolph Lane to Fowkes' Buildings. 
How I ever stopped there so long I'm sure I 
don't know. Begging your pardon for inter- 
rupting you, 'm, you were saying " 

" That I don't understand where such a 
girl could have got so well educated. Mr. 
Katzen says she knows as much as if she 
had been to a good boarding-school." 



MRS. CHILD S INTERROGATED. 



" The cat's out of the bag at last," thought 
Mrs. Childs. " You wonder, 'm, where she 
got her learning ?" she added aloud. " I can 
tell you. First of all, she's sharp as a gimlet 
— she'd pick up a thing and be away with it 
while another would be looking about to see 
where it was ; and then next, some of them 
Sisters got hold of her, or she got hold of 
them, and she was 'such a little clear,' and 
such a 'clever maid,' and so 'good' and 
'quiet,' and 'so much attached to her bene- 
factor,' that they gave her the best of learning 
and lots of presents ; and she, as one may 
say, just picked out of the gutter. It's a 
shame such things should be allowed, while 
those that are deserving and really in need 
of help couldn't get half a pound of tea — no ! 
not if they were to go down on their bended 
knees for it." 

" How old was she, do you suppose, that 
night when she got into Mr. Brisco's house ? 
Ten, wasn't it ?" 

" She told me she was getting on for 
eleven, but there, ; m, if I never stir again, I 
wouldn't believe a word she spoke. She's 
a hundred, if she's a day, in craft and wicked- 



MITRE COURT. 



ness, and mischief-making. There's Mrs. 
Hart, at the milk-shop ; many and many a 
pint of skim, and two or three eggs, she has 
slipped to me when I've gone in for a loaf, 
wet and draggled and tired — till missy came, 
then all was changed. Of course, Mrs. Hart 
serves me now civilly, like anybody else ; but 
no more nice little helps to make both ends 
meet. I say it's cruel — that I do !" 

" Mr. Katzen seems to have a great opinion 
of her." 

" I hope he mayn't find cause to change it, 
"m," said Mrs. Childs, in a tone which some- 
how turned the aspiration into a curse, and 
so overwhelmed Mrs. JefHey's limited under- 
standing, that she allowed Sophia's aunt to 
betake herself to Water Lane without asking 
any further question. 





CHAPTER VI. 



MISS WEIR. 



f£wfre|>|HE interview with Mrs. Childs, so 
far from assuaging Mrs. Jeffrey's 
curiosity, merely served to whet 
it. She could scarcely remember the time, 
since her first acquaintance with Mr. Katzen, 
when the name of Abigail Weir was unknown 
to her ; but till quite recently she had only 
heard it spoken casually by him, or spitefully 
by Mrs. Childs. Nothing could have been 
imagined further from her thoughts than that 
this girl — this stray — the funny little ener- 
getic old woman, as Mr. Katzen while Abby 
was still a child dubbed her, half in jest and 
half in earnest, should cross the field of her 
life, and throw a shadow upon it. 

Yet already she felt as though something 
vol. i. S 



U4 MITRE COURT. 



of the sort had happened ; and the same 
nervous restlessness which impels a person 
to open a door, or turn his head to look on 
an unpleasant sight, urged her on to obtain 
an interview with a young lady she had 
hitherto thought of, when she thought of her 
at all, merely as an insignificant little chit. 

It is not exactly the fault of such little 
chits that they have a way of shooting up 
suddenly into attractively pretty girls, yet the 
elders of their own sex generally regard this 
progression as a sin. 

Mr. Katzen's words had fallen with the 
force of a blow on poor Mrs. Jeffley, who 
really, spite of her many excellent qualities, 
was not much wiser than most women. A 
faithful wife and fond mother, no thought 
calculated to wrong Jack, save as regards her 
estimate of his intellectual capacity, had ever 
entered, or was ever likely to enter, her mind ; 
but jealousy, as it ordinarily presents itself, is 
sexless, and Mrs. Jeffley certainly felt jealous 
of this vague girl who had thrust herself upon 
the new Consul's notice. 

Further, if he took her for wife, no friend 
could possibly regard such a match as desir- 



MISS WEIR. us 



able. A waif who had come from heaven 
only knew where, and was living with a man 
as poor as Job and as morose as Diogenes ; 
who had, in the days when, like a strange, 
half-starved cat, she was first suffered to stay 
on in the old house, in the fulness of her 
little heart — or, as Mrs. Childs more happily 
phrased the matter, " in her uppishness" — 
whitened the steps, and black-leaded the 
grates, and dusted the offices, and taken a 
job out of Sophia's hands, must drag a hus- 
band down to the earth. Mr. Katzen might 
as well propose to marry one of the wander- 
ing maidens who, under the cruise of useful 
servants, were always coming to Fowkes' 
Buildings, ostensibly to do some work, but 
really only to obtain food and wages. The 
thing was appalling, and yet Mrs. jeffley 
feared he had spoken more in earnest than 
in jest. 

" I must see this dreadful pert creature," 
she thought, and she lay awake for a long 
time picturing how she could easily bring 
about an interview, and deciding the very 
words which should be uttered in the course 
of conversation. 



ii 6 MITRE COURT. 



It was Mrs. Jeffrey's excellent practice to 
do all her marketing in person. The joints, 
the fish, the vegetables she left to the discre- 
tion of no tradesman whatsoever. 

Hail, rain, shine, she repaired to Billings- 
gate and Leadenhall, where she made her 
purchases for the day, stinting in nothing, 
vet obtaining all she required at the lowest 
rates — a fact the good woman frequently 
mentioned. 

No doubt, an admirable manager ! She 
said so herself often, and the sentiment was 
chorused by all with whom she came in 
contact, even by Mrs. Childs. Whenever, 
indeed, Mrs. Jeffrey sang a song in her own 
praise — a matter of not unusual occurrence — 
Mrs. Childs always took up the refrain. 
Even if she did not allow her voice to be 
audible, she was wont to shake her head 
after the manner of one who conceived words 
to be insufficient for the purpose of extolling 
Mrs. Jeffrey's cleverness. 

Therefore, it did seem rather insincere that 
in the seclusion of the upper floor she rented 
in Water Lane, she should say to Sophia : 
"Ah — h — h ! it's easy to buy when you've 



MISS WEIR. 117 



got money to buy with ; the trouble is to buy 
when you ain't." 

Hearing which axiom Sophia, who, like all 
half-witted creatures, delighted to lie and 
cheat over a farthing, was wont to swell and 
shake her fat cheeks with silent laughter, and 
indulge in some of those orimaces which had 
won the sobriquet of " Punch" from the rude 
youth of the neighbourhood. 

In the watches of the night Mrs. JefHey 
made up her mind as to how she should 
approach Miss Weir. She would rub on no 
war-paint ; she would not even appal her 
with the glories of that brown silk laid aside 
so recently. No ; she decided to go adorned 
merely with sweet simplicity, a resolution 
which the memory that her chintz costume 
was a love, and beautifully made, fitting her 
indeed like a glove, fully confirmed. Mrs. 
Mountly had sent it home at twelve o'clock 
on Saturday night, just in time to wear on 
Sunday morning ; and old Captain Hassell 
had said, with an unholy oath, Mrs. Jeffiey 
did not look an hour over eighteen in it. 
That and her brown hat, which was so taste- 
fully trimmed— silk and velvet two shades, 



nS MITRE COURT. 



and finished off with real ostrich feathers, 
small and elegant — what could be better ? 
Altogether, the dress in which to encounter 
Miss Weir for the first time ; certainly the 
dress most suitable for such a neighbourhood, 
and becoming, moreover, to a fair woman 
like herself, possessed moreover of light 
crinkly hair, bright hazel eyes, well-defined 
eyebrows, and a good set of teeth. 

For a long time Mrs. Jeffley had felt so 
satisfied as to the bond fides of her mature 
charms that she had not thought of enume- 
rating them. Now, however, she went over 
the list as a needy man might count the 
money in his pocket. 

Yes, they were all there — while dressing 
next morning she considered them singly and 
collectively as she stood before the glass — 
not a solitary item was lacking ; in detail as 
well as in mass, she beheld Mrs. Maria 
jeffley, " whose equal," said her many devoted 
admirers, " it would have been hard to find." 

To a captious taste, the worst of Mrs. 
jeffley was that when you had seen her- once 
you had seen her always. This defect is one 
inseparable from the style of beauty in which 



MISS WEIR. 119 



Nature deemed it best to clothe her. Some 
faces that when first beheld on canvas seem 
most lovely and greatly to be desired, finally 
become absolutely maddening because of 
their unchanging monotony. There are no 
depths in the eyes to fathom, or lurking sad- 
ness of expression to stimulate speculation ; 
no unuttered words of reproach or tenderness 
seem trembling on their lips ; the curves and 
lines never even in fancy vary and deepen ; 
for ever they remain the same, in joy or in 
sorrow, gazing down from the wall with cold, 
unsympathetic beauty. It was thus with 
Mrs. Jeffley. Her good looks, her well-fed, 
well-satisfied, prosperous expression seemed 
an affront, not to the extraordinary specimens 
of humanity that filled her house and purse, 
but to ordinary, troubled, anxious, suffering, 
yearning humanity such as we daily encounter 
surging along the highways and byways of 
our mighty London. 

One person, however, at all events felt 
quite satisfied with Mrs. Maria Jeffrey's face 
as she saw it reflected in the mirror, and 
that person was Maria Jeffley herself. She 
had grown older, and stouter, and harder, 



MITRE COURT. 



and more assured, by such slow degrees 
that the alterations wrought by time were 
absolutely imperceptible to the lady most 
interested in them. 

If she had passed eighteen, she was some- 
thing much better — a woman in her prime. 
She did not fear comparison with Miss Weir 
or Miss anybody. Marketing of course could 
not be deferred, but on her return from 
Leadenhall she decided to honour Botolph 
Lane with a visit. 

Mrs. Jeffley had never been to the old 
house ; as a rule, her own affairs provided 
sufficient of interest and occupation to prevent 
meddling with those of other people ; but 
now she really did feel curious and some- 
what anxious on the subject of a strange girl 
who might at one fell swoop deprive her of 
an eligible lodger and a confidential friend. 
As she pondered these matters her heart 
waxed hot within her, and she determined 
Miss Weir should not have things all her 
own way without a struggle. 

Passing through the gateway that still 
affords ingress from Botolph Lane to the 
wide courtvard on which the old house seems 



MISS WEIR. 



to look sorrowfully, Mrs. Jeffley picked her 
steps over the rough pavement. 

Even she, accustomed to London and its 
broad and sudden contrasts, felt it strange to 
turn out of the noisy, crowded, narrow lane, 
blocked with carts, where progress even on 
foot was difficult, into this still nook of the 
old City, which seemed to have been borne 
hither at some remote period on the restless 
sea of human life, and left stranded by the 
waters that had, since it was built, ebbed 
out of this world, to flow back over the re- 
membered shores no more for ever. 

Something which Mrs. Jeffley subsequently 
termed "a creeping" began to trouble that 
worthy lady. As one first landing on foreign 
soil examines tree and shrub and flower and 
shell and bird, so this explorer, who candidly 
said she "wasn't much of a one for old ruins, or 
old abbeys, or old women, or old bones, or old 
anything, though she liked to see what other 
people saw," was impelled to pause and look at 
the dog-kennel under the steps leading up to 
the main entrance ; at the do^-lao hollowed in 
the stones ; at the flat oblong canopy over the 
hall door, under the shadow of which great 



MITRE COURT. 



men and fair ladies must long a»"o have 
stood gazing westward at the setting sun. 

The door was wide open, and Mrs. Jeffley, 
having slowly ascended the stone steps, and 
paused beside the iron railing and glanced 
round the enclosed square, could see the 
beautiful marble pavement, and the long 
stretch of black and white diamonds that 
paved the hall. 

She was standing staring at this and the 
noble old staircase at the farther end, when a 
door to her left opened, and a young girl 
holding a piece of needlework in her hand 
appeared. 

Mrs. Jeffley had not rung, though her 
fingers were on the handle of the bell, and 
the girl seemed somewhat surprised to see 
anyone at the door. 

" What is it ?" she asked, not brusquely or 
pertly, but in the same matter-of-fact way in 
which a shopman repeats his formula : 
" What can I show you ?"' and then each 
stood " at ease." 

" You can't be Miss Weir," thought Mrs. 
Jeffley, " and yet you must be. Dear me, 
what a complexion !" 



Jf/SS WEIR. 



But she only said aloud : 

"Mr. Brisco lives here, does he not ?" 

" Yes ; but he is not in now. Will you 
leave any message ?" 

" I did not want to see him particularly," 
answered Mrs. Jefrle) 7 . " Perhaps you can 
tell me if Mrs. Childs still works for 
him ?" 

" Gracious ! no ; she has not for these six 
years past !" 

" Oh !" and Mrs. Jeffley added nothing 
more, but stood wondering how it would be 
best to continue the conversation. 

Very obligingly Miss Weir took that 
trouble off her hands. 

"If you particularly wish to find Mrs. 
Childs," she began, laying a spiteful emphasis 
on the " particularly," " she used to live over 
a greengrocer's shop in Water Lane, just 
beyond Fowkes' Buildings. Even in case 
she has moved, it is unlikely she can have 
gone very far away " 

" She will not be coming back here to work, 
I suppose ?" 

" Not if I have anything to do with the 
matter!" 



124 MITRE COURT. 



"And you have " 

" Everything !" supplied Miss Weir, with a 
promptness little less than appalling. 

" Is she not a good worker, then ?" 

" She is good enough, so far as I know, 
but we don't want her here, and we are not 
going to have her.'' 

" You are very decided about the matter." 

" Very," was Abigail's answer. 

''What a fine old house this seems!" said 
Mrs. jefiiey, still standing on the step and 
addressing the girl who stood in the hall. 

"It is a fine old house," amended Miss 
Weir, not rudely, for she spoke with a pleasant 
smile. 

" I never saw a handsomer hall." 

Abby turned her head a little and glanced 
round at the marble floor and the wide oak 
staircase. Then she looked at Mrs. JefBey, 
and smiled asfain. 

" Is it here," asked her visitor, driven 
almost to her wits' end, " that there is a 
panelled room painted beautifully all over ?" 

" We have a room," was the reply, " the 
door and panels of which are painted. 
Should you like to see it ?" 



Jf/SS WE/I?. 



" Of all things," joyfully exclaimed Mrs. 
Jeffley. " How very kind you are !" 

" Oh no, not at all," said Abigail depre- 
catingly, and then she motioned Mrs. Jeffley 
to precede her into the apartment from which 
she had just emerged, delightedly walking 
after that lady, and with a sense of the 
keenest enjoyment raising herself first on 
one foot and then on the other behind the 
unsuspecting Maria's back. 

Heaven only knows what Mrs. Jeffley had 
expected, but at all events she did not find 
it. A moderate-sized room with two windows; 
an old Turkey carpet on the floor ; a large 
office-table in the centre ; a few chairs ; walls — 
so Mrs. Jeffley subsequently stated — " nearly 
as black as my shoe," with a "lot of Indians 
sprawling about over them," formed a whole 
little calculated to strike an utterly common 
and conventional woman with astonishment. 

Mrs. Jeffley's only amazement was that 
anyone could be found to admire so dull and 
sombre an apartment. 

" It is very dark," she said. 

" We do not get the sun till the afternoon," 
suggested Abigail mischievously. 



MITRE COURT. 



" And what is the meaning of all these 
things ?" asked Mrs. Jeffley, pointing with 
her parasol to the paintings by Robinson. 

" We should all be so glad if anyone 
could tell us that," replied the girl. 

" I can't make it out at all," complained 
Mrs. Jeffley, wandering hopelessly from 
scene to scene. " Here is something like a 
church, and they have got a cat in this boat, 
and I wonder what that lady can be doing 
among all those savages ?" 

" Haven't a notion," said Abigail, who 
stood beside the table hemming most in- 
dustriously. 

" I am afraid I must be detaining 
you," observed Mrs. Jeffley, pausing in 
her addled efforts to understand enigmas 
which had puzzled far wiser heads than 
hers. 

"No; you see I am going on with my 
work," answered Abigail, taking a reel of 
cotton out of her pocket and threading her 
needle afresh. " Please look at the panels 
as long as you like." 

" Thank you," and Mrs. Jeffley regarded, 
as if in rapt wonderment, a particularly jolly- 



MISS WEIR. 127 



looking savage riding with a companion on a 
rhinoceros. 

"He always puts me in good spirits," 
remarked the girl. " Here he is again, you 
see, in this chariot drawn by antelopes." 

"Well, I never!" ejaculated Mrs. Jeffley. 

" No, and I do not believe anyone else 
ever did," laughed Abby. " He is the funniest 
creature." 

Her visitor looked at the speaker doubt- 
fully. 

" You are Miss Weir, I suppose ?" she 
hazarded. 

" Yes; I am Miss Weir," agreed Abigail. 

" And I am Mrs. Jeffley/' in a tone as 
though she had said, " I am Victoria, by the 
crace of God Oueen of Great Britain and 
Ireland." 

" Are you really ?" said Abigail, with well- 
feigned astonishment ; " why, Mrs. Childs left 
us to go to you." 

Mrs. Jeffley was not much given to 
chang-ino- colour ; as she was wont to remark, 
forgetting how many a true word is spoken 
in jest, her "blushing-days were over" — but 
under the steady gaze of Miss Weir's wicked 



128 MITRE COURT. 



eyes she felt a crimson wave rise even to her 
temples. 

It was quite necessary to say something, 
so she said it : 

" Yes — Mrs. Childs left you to come to 
me. She has been with me ever since." 

" I suppose I ought to congratulate you," 
observed Abigail demurely. 

"You can do about that as you please," 
retorted Mrs. Jeffley, for indeed the girl's 
manner might have irritated a saint. " But 
I may tell you / find Mrs. Childs a capital 
worker." 

" That is what everyone says," returned 
Abigail, "and you know what everyone says 
must be true, as the little boy remarked to his 
grandmother." 

" I am not so sure," replied Mrs. Jeffley ; 
"but I was going to observe, when you in- 
terrupted me " 

"Yes," said the girl, as she stopped, "I 
am so sorry I interrupted you, if I did " 

" That," went on Mrs. Jeffley desperately, 
" I made Mrs. Childs an excuse for coming 
here." 

"Why?" asked Miss Weir. 



MISS WEIR. 129 



" Because I wanted to see you." 

The girl laughed outright. 

" There was no excuse needed," she said. 
" I am nearly always on view." 

" I couldn't know that." 

" But why did you want to see me ?" in- 
quired Abigail. 

" Because I have been hearing so much 
ahout you lately." 

" Won't you sit down, Mrs. Jeffley ? I do 
hope you will be able to spare time to tell me 
all you have heard." 

" Well, I heard, for one thing," returned 
Mrs. Jeffley, " that you were a very pretty 
girl." 

" It is not for me to contradict that," said 
Abigail thoughtfully, breaking off another 
length of thread, " and I won't ask you for 
your opinion, since I don't know," she added, 
with a roguish twinkle, " that I much care for 
being flattered to my face." 

" I should not do that," replied Mrs. Jeffley. 

" No, I am sure you would not," returned 
the girl. 

" And I heard also," proceeded Mrs. 
Jeffley, "about how clever you are." 

vol. 1. 9 



MITRE COURT. 



" That must have come from Mrs. Childs, 
yet I wonder she is only discovering my 
good qualities now." 

Mrs. Jeffley made no answer. Already 
she had committed herself sufficiently. 

"What an industrious girl you seem to 
be !" she said. 

" Oh ! very," agreed Abigail. 

" Now I wonder " began Mrs. Jeffley, 

and then she stopped. 

"What do you wonder?" asked Miss 
Weir. 

" Whether you would feel offended if I 
asked you to do some needlework for me ?" 

" Quite the reverse — should be glad." 

"Well — -will you do some ?" 

" If I can — what is it ?" 

" Children's clothes ; you can make them, 
I feel confident." 

"Yes, I can make them, I dare say." 

" Will you send round for the work, 
then ?" 

"No, I will come — there is no one here to 
send." 

" Do you mean to tell me really you live 
in this huge barrack of a place all alone?" 



MISS WEIR. 



"You forget Mr. Brisco lives here too — 
you came to see him, you know." 

" What a take-off you are !" retorted Mrs. 
Jeffley, a little peevishly. " I have said I 
came to see you and you only ; and I am 
very glad I did come, for I hope I shall 
see a great deal of you." 

"You will, if you can give me plenty cf 
work and I am able to do it to please you," 
said Abigail. 

" You will be able to please me, I have 
little doubt. Are you not dreadfully dull 
here ?" 

" Dull ! not in the least. I always find 
plenty to do, and besides, in the day-time 
people are coming and going. Of course 
this is not a fair sample. On Whit-Tuesday 
there is scarcely anything doing." 

" One of my lodgers has offices here, has 
he not?" said Mrs. Jeffley, unconsciously 
following the example set by the daughter of 
a publisher and editor who, being asked at a 
party who a lady was, languidly replied, 
" One of my papa's contributors." 

"I do not know any of your lodgers who 
can have an office here, except Mr. Katzen," 

9—2 



MITRE COURT. 



answered Miss Weir, with pitiless directness. 
"Is it Mr. Katzen you mean ?" 

"Yes, Mr. Katzen, the Consul for New 
Andalusia." 

" He is going to leave us." 

" I suppose you are very sorry." 

" Mr. Brisco is ; for myself, I feel if the 
change be for Mr. Katzen's good I ought 
not to repine." 

" That is a very pretty sentiment." 

" And a very proper one too;" and Abigail, 
having finished the little pinafore she was 
making, laid it flat on the table and began to 
fold it up. 

"What a clever man Mr. Katzen is!" 
said Mrs. Jeffley. 

" So Mr. Brisco says." 

"And so very kind." 

" I never heard Mr. Brisco say anything 
about that." 

" He is a most generous person." 

"So he has often told me, and he ought to 
know ;" and then Miss Weir looked up 
archly at Mrs. Jeffley and laughed, and Mrs. 
Jeffley looked at Miss Weir and laughed too. 

Why she did so it would be hard to say, 



MISS WEIR. 



except perhaps because she felt the date 
of Mr. Katzen's departure from Fowkes' 
Buildings would not be speedily fixed. 

" Well. I must be going," she said at last. 
" I shall look up some work for you at once. 
When can you come round ?" 

"To-morrow," was the prompt rejoinder. 

" Between eleven and twelve ? Will that 
suit you ?" 

"Yes, I will make it suit me," answered 
the girl. " I can let you out at the other 
door, Mrs. Jeffley — it is nearer for you than 
going round by Botolph Lane." 





CHAPTER VII. 



MR. KATZENS LOVE. 




S Miss Weir closed the door leading 
into Love Lane, after Mrs. Jef- 
fley, and turned in order to pro- 
ceed to her own room, she saw Mr. Katzen, 
who had entered the house by the front en- 
trance, crossing the hall. 

" Have you lost the little pain in your 
temper which was troubling you yesterday, 
my lofe ?" he asked. 

For answer, Abigail stuck her dimpled im- 
pudent chin in the air, and without even 
bestowing one look on her admirer, walked 
along the passage leading to the kitchens 
and offices. 

Mr. Katzen sighed audibly, and then went 
upstairs laughing. That morning his spirits 



MR. KATZEN'S LOVE. 



were remarkably good, and everything — even 
the conquest of Miss Weir — seemed to him 
possible. 

Half an hour later he paused outside the 
door of the apartment which served the pur- 
pose indiscriminately of workroom, kitchen, 
parlour, study, and guest-chamber. He 
stopped and listened — Abigail was singing 
louder than her canary bird. 

" The girl is happy," he thought, " happy 
in this wretched house. How does she 
manage to keep up her spirits ?" and then 
he knocked. 

" Come in," cried out Abigail, in a clear 
steady voice. " Come in — oh ! it is you, is 
it ?" she went on. "Well, Mr. Katzen, and 
what do you want ?" 

" I want a chat with the fair Abigail," he 
answered. 

" Meaning me ?" 

" Meaning you, and none other. No 
offence, I hope." 

" No offence has been taken as yet ; and 
if I were you, I would not give any." 

Without waiting for any invitation, he seated 
himself on a wooden form which stood beside 



136 MITRE COURT. 



the hearth. All the furniture was simple, 
not to say rude ; but everything was scrubbed 
snowy white, and through the well-cleaned 
windows bright sunshine poured into a room 
innocent of dust or motes. 

The canary's song had ceased at Mr. Kat- 
zen's entrance, like Abby's own, and the bird 
was now hopping about the room, and occa- 
sionally setting its head on one side to survey 
Miss Weir's visitor. 

" What a busy young lady you are !" he 
said, glancing at the pile of work which lay 
tidily folded up on the table. 

He had known that fact for so long a time, 
the young lady he addressed did not seem to 
think comment upon it necessary. 

" I do not like to see you working your 
pretty fingers to the bone," he went on. 

Miss Weir lifted her left hand, and regarded 
it attentively. It was small, dimpled, plump. 

" There are no bones visible," she remarked, 
apparently in a spirit of the calmest criticism. 

" No, indeed." 

" Considerinc: the amount of work I have 
done, do you not think they ought to have 
been showing by this time ?" 



MR. KATZEN'S LOVE. 137 

" Ah ! my dear, you know that is not what 
I mean. It is not right for a young girl to 
drudge and slave as you do." 

" Why not ?" 

" Because young girls ought to enjoy 
themselves." 

"I enjoy myself," she replied, turning down 
a hem as she spoke with great vigour and de- 
termination ; "there is nothing I like so much 
as work." 

" That is all very well, but it ought to be 
profitable work." 

" This is profitable " 

" Yes — yes — I understand, it may bring 
you in a few shillings, which you will spend 
in buying something for a man who scarcely 
speaks to you." 

" If I did not spend it on him, on whom 
should I spend it, pray ?" 

" On your pretty self." 

" I do spend a great deal on my pretty self." 

" Fie — fie — Miss Weir, to say that to me, 
who, sitting: even where I am, can see all the 
darns and patches in your dress!" 

" I am not ashamed of your seeing the 
patches in my dress." 



1 38 MITRE COURT. 



'•' No ! though you know it is said — a rent 
may be accident, but a darn is premeditated 
poverty." 

" My darns are premeditated poverty then ; 
and as for this gown, it is good enough for in- 
doors. I have a better for Sundays." 

" May I come and see it ?" 

"You can see it if you like to go to 
church, but then I suppose you never go 
to church." 

" I should like to hear one service there 
with you — not, however, the order for morn- 
ing prayer." 

" If you mean the solemnization of matri- 
mony, I will tell you when I am going to be 
married." 

" To me, though — only to me !" 

"' That is quite another affair," she said 
coquettishly. 

" But you will marry me, Abigail ?" 

" You have not yet' asked me," she returned, 
holding a finger to her canary, which imme- 
diately availed itself of the offered perch. 

Mr. Katzen looked at the girl. 

Things were ^ettin^ on faster than he had 
intended ; but, spite of her poor surroundings, 



MR. KATZEN'S LOVE. 139 



of all he knew about her past, she seemed 
captivating with the morning sun streaming 
upon her lissom figure, her lips a little pursed 
up as she tweeted to the bird, her long dark 
lashes brushing the rich tints of her soft 
cheeks ; and he took her at her word. 

" Will you marry me?" he asked. Without 
raising her eyes or turning her head, she 
answered : 

" Certainly not." 

"Well, that is civil, I must say," said the 
new Consul, rising in hot wrath. " Here 
you, whom I have known since you were a 
chit of a child " 

"With scarce a shoe to my foot," she 
prompted, still contemplating her canary. 

" Lead me on," he continued — declining 
her addition to his sentence — " to propose to 
you — for, though you may not think it, I 
made an actual proposal which I mean to 
stand by — and you state, as if I had only 
asked you if you would have an orange, 
' Certainly not.'" 

" I never was very civil, I am afraid," she 
said, looking at him now with a whole world 
of meaning in the depths of her dark eyes. 



i 4 o MITRL COURT. 



" I suppose I ought to have added that I felt 
very much obliged." 

"You are enough m drive a man mad!" 
he returned. "Are you in jest — or do you 
think I am ?" 

"No; I fancy you arc in earnest. And 
nothing was further from my mind than jest- 
ing, I assure you." 

"In plain English, you really mean you 
will not marry me ?" 

" I really will not marry you." 

For a moment Mr. Katzen stood silent, 
gazing at the girl with a sort of sullen 
intentness. 

" I move then," hi said at last, with a 
forced, uneasy laugh, " that we read the Bill 
this day six months." 

" Or six years," amended Miss Weir, "or 
sixty; time will make no difference on my 
part." 

"We will see," he answered. " How is it 
you never have a smile or a pleasant word 
for me ? How is it you are willing to do 
anything for an old man v\ ho scarcely knows, 
and I am sure does not care, whether you 
are living or dead, while you treat me — me, 



MR. AM TZEN'S LOVE. 141 



Karl Katzen, to whom others of your sex 
have not been so indifferent — as thoueh I 
were unworthy of your notice." 

" I am sure I can scarcely tell," she replied. 
" Perhaps I like Mr. Brisco so much because 
he does not want to marry me." 

" But why should you not wish to marry 
me ?" he persisted. " The mere prospect of 
leaving this house — this horrible dead-and- 
alive house " 

" I am not at all anxious to leave this 
house," she interrupted. 

" Almost all girls take kindly to their first 
lover." 

" Do they ? Some of them must begin to 
be fond early, then !" 

'•' That is your case, probably," he sneered. 
"No doubt you lost your heart long ago to 
that young man round the corner." 

" Which comer?" she asked. " Be precise; 
there are lots of corners about here." 

Her saucy speech restored Mr. Katzen's 
good temper. 

" Come, Abby," he said, " you and I must 
not quarrel. Some day you will be sorry 
for the way you are treating me now. 



142 MITRE COURT. 



I am going to make a great success — I mean 
to be a millionnaire yet. Smooth down your 
ruffled feathers, and tell me, like my good 
lofe, if you would not like to be Baroness 
von Katzenstein ?" 

" Not if you were Baron von Katzenstein," 
she replied demurely. 

" You cannot make me angry with you," 
he returned. " I intend you to marry me as 
soon as I can afford to support a wife in the 
style I should like my wife to live, and in 
the meantime I wish to show you what a 
mild, genial, forgiving person I am." 

" Saul among the prophets !" suggested 
Miss Weir, threading her needle. 

"We know who can quote Scripture," 
returned her suitor. 

" Mr. Brisco's opinion is, that the some- 
body you mean does not quote Scripture." 

" It says in the Bible that he does." 

" Mr. Brisco would be obliged if you could 
tell him where. As you do not seem to have 
much to do, you might go over to the 
Rectory and borrow a ' Concordance.' ' 

" You are flippant this morning, Miss 
Weir." 



MR. KA TZEN 'S LOVE. 143 

" Perhaps that may be because I have had 
an early visitor." 

" What, the new curate ! By Heaven ! I 
thought there was something under all 
this!" 

" No, not the new curate." 

" Your young man, then, I suppose, from 
round the corner ?" 

" No; not a man, young or old, from round 
the corner or anywhere else. My visitor 
was your great friend Mrs. Jeffley." 

" The deuce she was ! And what did Mrs. 
Jeffley want ?" 

" Her ostensible errand was to know 
whether Mrs, Childs still worked here." 

" Good Lord ! and what did you tell 
her ?" 

"I told her Mrs. Childs had not worked 
here for nearly six years, and that with my 
goodwill she should never work here again." 

"If you have a fault, my Abigail — which, 
however, I do not assert, remember — it is 
excessive candour, a candour which at times 
is almost painful. But proceed, dear girl." 

"I do not know that there is much to 
proceed about." 



H4 MITRE COURT. 



" You said Mrs. Jeffley's ostensible errand 
was to ask concerning poor, dear, grimy Mrs. 
Childs. Did she not tell you the nature of 
her real mission ?" 

" No, she did not tell me at first, but I 
found that out for myself. She wanted to 
see ;;/<?." 

" Vainest of vain young persons ! You 
think all the world wants to see you. No 
doubt, though, Mrs. Jeffley admired you 
very much indeed." 

" She ought, I am sure ; but I have my 
misgivings on that point." 

" May I ask, why these misgivings ?" 

" Well, for one reason, because I am not 
in the least like Mrs. Jeffley." 

" I agree with you there. You are not 
like Mrs. Jeffley — not like what Mrs. Jeffley 
ever could have been in her best days ; but 
what of that ?" 

" All, I should say." 

" But, my sweet darling, my dearest 
Abigail, my spouse that is to be in the happy 

future stretching away before us that is 

right; smile — I delight to see your dimples — 
you ladies do love to look on a pretty face." 



MR. KATZEN 1 S LOVE. 145 

" So far as my experience goes, no lady 
loves to look on any pretty face but her 
own." 

The answer delighted Mr. Katzen. He 
burst into a fit of laughter, this time perfectly 
natural and spontaneous. 

"Your experience, child," he repeated; 
" that must be large indeed. It embraces, 
probably, Mrs. Brown, in Love Lane, and 
Mrs. Robinson, in St. Mary-at-Hill." 

" To say nothing of Miss Jones, in Botolph 
Alley," added Miss Weir pertly. " You 
forget, however, Mr. Katzen, my experience 
of life beean before I ever entered this house. 
And even if it had not " 

"Why do you stop, fair maiden? — 'even 
if it had not ' " 

" Supposing you wanted to tell the world 
all about the nature and habits, say of ants, 
should you not know their ways and habits 
as well after you had watched a hundred in 
their daily life as if you watched a million ?" 

" The point you wish to express being 
probably that, having -studied the vanity, 
meanness, and littleness of the female Brown, 
Jones and Co. of .your acquaintance, you 

vol. 1. 10 



146 MITRE COURT. 



would be competent to write an exhaustive 
analysis of the characters of Cleopatra or 
Queen Elizabeth ?" 

" I should be competent to form an opinion 
of their weaknesses, at any rate," retorted 
the girl. " It would be very strange if, living 
so much alone, I had not thought a great 
deal about many subjects concerning which 
most people never trouble their heads, and I 
have come to the conclusion that vanity is as 
strong a failing among women as jealousy 
among men." 

" God help your foolish, innocent little 
heart !" said Mr. Katzen ; " men are never 
jealous." 

" Oh, aren't they ?" scoffed Abigail. 

" I mean in a general way, of course. 
There are and must be cases where even the 
instinct of self-preservation induces a certain 
amount of perfectly righteous jealousy in a 
man's bosom." 

" I was not talking about any case of that 
sort," said Miss Weir calmly, as though she 
had spent her whole life in the practice of the 
Divorce Court. 

"What were you talking about then, 



MR. KATZEN'S LOVE. 147 

dearest — though not wisest — of dear 
<jirls ?" 

" About men being jealous of each other, 
for what I should call nothing. If anyone of 
you gets on, makes a name, makes a fortune, 
marries a rich wife or a beauty, buys a hand- 
some horse, starts a drag, sets up a carriage, 
immediately every man he knows grows 
wildly jealous. I have seen," finished Abby, 
sapiently shaking her head, " quite enough to 
know that." 

" Really, to be scarce seventeen, you are 
wonderfully cynical, young lady. I wonder 
if any man is jealous of me ;" and he looked 
sharply at the girl, upon whose figure the 
sunlight was streaming at the moment in a 
golden flood. 

" You will soon be able to tell that now," 
returned Abigail, with the most guileless 
expression on her face. 

" Why, in Heaven's name, should I soon 
be able to tell that now ?" 

" Because you are getting so prosperous. 
You are Consul in England for — what is the 
name of that outlandish place ? You are 
going to make a fortune ; then you will buy 

10 — 2 



143 MITRE COURT. 



a title ; then you will fit yourself up a castle 
on the Rhine or in Spain — it does not much 
matter which ; then you will get a cab to take 
away your luggage from Fowkes' Buildings, 
and leave poor Mrs. Jeffley broken-hearted." 

" And the same morning I will marry 
Abigail Weir." 

" I forgot that ; and then all the City 
gallants who have been blocking Botolph 
Lane for years past, and insisting upon my 
smiling on them, will want to cut your 
throat." 

"It is not always safe, my dear, to make 
what you call fun of a man who is in earnest." 

" Did I ever say you were not in earnest, 
Mr. Katzen ? On the contrary, I believe, 
as a rule, you are almost as serious as Mr. 
Brisco." 

" He, at all events, is a person scarcely 
likely to excite envy." 

" Except on the grounds of being so 
clever." 

" Do you know, Abby, it just occurs to 
me you are in love with your benefactor." 

" Perhaps I am ; there is no just cause or 
impediment, is there ?" 



MR. KATZEN' S LOVE. 149 

" None that I know of; but it might be 
prudent for you to make a few inquiries into 
his past history before taking him for better 
or worse. For aught you can tell, he may 
have a wife already " 

" Or a dozen." 

" No need for a dozen ; you will find one 
a sufficient barrier." 

" Quite a mistake, Mr. Katzen. One 
might die — be poisoned, for example ; but 
how could any person poison a dozen ?" 
And the girl looked up mischievously, and 
then resumed her stitching. 

There was a pause — the canary, which had 
fluttered up to its mistress' shoulder, con- 
sidering a convenient moment had arrived 
for favouring the company, suddenly burst 
into song. For a little while there was no 
sound save that of flutelike shakes and silver 
trilling roulades. Sunshine still streamed 
down on Abby's figure ; her busy needle 
glinted in and out. Mr. Katzen, soothed 
by the silence and the picture of quiet 
domesticity, held his peace for a time ; 
but at length he broke the spell by say- 
ing : 



i 5 o MITRE COURT. 



" And so you do not think that Mrs. Jeffley 
admired you ?" 

" She admires you, which is much more to 
the purpose," answered Miss Weir. 

" I always believed Mrs. Jeffley to be a 
lady possessed of a most excellent judgment, 
and now I know my belief was right." 

" Happy Mrs. Jeffley!" 

" May I ask, dear Abigail, how happy 
Mrs. Jeffley impressed you ?" 

" I don't think she is a bad sort of person. 
She promised to give me plenty of work ;" 
and Mr. Katzen's dear Abigail broke a length 
of cotton off her spool and threaded her 
needle afresh. 

" And you said ' Thank you/ I suppose, 
and hoped you would give satisfaction ?" 

" Of course ! Why should I not ? If I 
give satisfaction I can get work, and the 
more work I am able to sret the better I am 
pleased." 

With a smothered exclamation, Mr. Katzen 
rose from his bench and paced the room. 

" When will you learn not to make your- 
self so cheap ?" he asked. 

" What has happened ?" returned the girl. 



MR. K AT ZEN'S LOVE. 151 

" Nothing special has come to me during the 
last week. / have not been made consul 
anywhere. I must go on sewing just as if 
there were not such a place on earth as New 
Andalusia." 

" You need not," he said. " Only speak 
the word, and I will take you away from this 
miserable life — from this grinding drudgery." 
" Time enough to talk of all that when 
you have made your fortune," answered Miss 
Weir, in a tone which implied she considered 
such a period likely to be somewhat re- 
mote. 

" Do you know, there are moods of yours 
which make me feel as if I should like to 
beat you." 

For a second Miss Weir suspended her 
employment, and looked at her lover. 

"In some countries, I have read," she 
said, " that is the approved mode of court- 
ship ; in England, however, the custom is 
different. So you had better wait till I am 
Mrs. Katzen before adopting such a form of 
endearment." 

Again he broke into laughter ; partly be- 
cause he felt relieved she had not quite taken 



152 MITRE COURT. 



him at his word, greatly because this especial 
sort of badinage possesses for many men an 
inexplicable charm. 

" What a funny girl you are !" he ex- 
claimed. "One never knows how to take 
you ;" and then, still stitching away, she 
laughed too, while the canary excelled all 
previous efforts in the way of melody. 

"You seem" — at this juncture interposed 
a thin, sarcastic voice — " to be particularly 
merry here. I hope I don't intrude." 

" On the contrary," said Mr. Katzen, rising 
and holding out his hand in greeting to Mr. 
Brisco. " I have been waiting your return, 
and Miss Weir has kindly enlivened the time 
by airing some quite original views concern- 
ing marriage." 

" Concerning marriage — humph ! Will 
you kindly walk into my office for a few 
minutes, Mr. Katzen," he went on, " if you 
want to speak to me ?" 

As they passed out together, the pity she 
so often felt for the friendless, desolate man 
stirred Abby's young heart to its very depths. 
Something in his worn face and wasted figure 
— some suggested contrast between Mr. Kat- 



MR. KATZEN' S LOVE. 



zen, confident of success, and her benefactor, 
poor, struggling, lonely — stung her like the 
cut of a whip, and running after them, she 
said to Mr. Brisco : 

" You won't go out again without having 
something to eat ? Dinner is quite ready." 

For a moment he looked at her in surprise. 
Her manner was so earnest. 

" Promise me," she persisted. " You know, 
when you fast from morning till night you are 
always ill." 

" I promise then," he answered ; but he 
spoke the words reluctantly. 

"She is right," said Mr. Katzen, as the 
girl left them. " It is not well to go for 
many hours without food. What a strange 
child she is !" 

" Most strange," agreed Mr. Brisco, " to 
devote her life to one against whom Fate has 
such a spite." 

" I don't know that exactly," dissented 
Mr. Katzen. " She owes so much to you, 
that it would be strange indeed were she not 
grateful." 

" She owes so little to me," returned Mr. 
Brisco, " that I wonder she is grateful at all." 



1 5 4 MITRE COURT. 



" I have but to repeat, it would be odd 
if she were not grateful. You had better 
make as much of her as you can while she is 
with you." 

" While she is with me ? — what do you 
mean ? Where is she going ?" 

" She will go the way of all women," 
laughed Mr. Katzen. " Do you suppose 
you will be able to keep her for ever ? Do 
you think young men are blind ? It is all 
very well for us to talk of her as a child ; but 
you may be wise, Mr. Brisco, to notice she 
has shot up into a girl — a pretty girl, a pre- 
cocious girl — who has got it in her to go very 
far wrong as well as very far right." 

" I never thought of her marrying," said 
Mr. Brisco ; " such an idea never entered my 
mind, save perhaps as a remote contingency 
— at some distant time. Have you any rea- 
son to think — • — -" 

" No — not I," answered Mr. Katzen as the 
other paused, leaving his interrogatory un- 
spoken ; "but when I see a good-looking 
girl, the conclusion is not hard to draw that 

other people may see she is good-looking 

11 
too. 



MR. KATZEN'S LOVE. 155 

Half an hour passed slowly by. The 
canary was still singing, Abby still sewing, 
the dinner still simmering on the hob — and 
still Mr. Brisco did not put in an appearance. 

At the end of that time the girl rose, lifted 
the lid of the saucepan, shook her head 
doubtfully, and began to lay the cloth. 

She made as much noise as she could with 
plates, forks, and spoons, and often paused 
in her task to listen for the opening of a door. 

At length she heard one open and shut. 

" He will be here presently, pretty Dick," 
she confided to her bird, and then, looking 
round, she beheld Mr. Katzen once again. 

" So you've made up your mind to go at 
last," she said. " I thought perhaps you 
were intending to stop all day." 

" Such pleasure is not for a poor drudge 
like me. Good-bye, my darling lofe," and 
he threw a kiss towards her ; " farewell for 
the present, Baroness von Katzenstein." 

" Good-day, Duke of Rhineland," retorted 
Miss Weir. " You have spoiled our dinner. 
Do go before you spoil my temper too !" 

" Ah ! my God, that would be a mis- 
fortune !" he remarked, and went his way. 




CHAPTER VIII. 



SUNDAY. 




OUND and about the old house in 
% I2S^$S Botolph Lane churches lie thick 
Q^k, as leaves in autumn. 

And with few exceptions autumn leaves 
could scarce seem more sere and dead than 
they. Here and there some notable preacher 
or well-trained choir attracts a congregation, 
but as a rule the old citizens mouldering to 
dust are not more lifeless than the weekly 
services attended by some dozen adults and 
the school-children. 

And all the while there is a great multitude 
waiting without, willing to answer if only 
called in some intelligible language — a mighty 
multitude that would fill the now empty seats 
to overflowing- — a restless and curious -multi- 



SUNDAY. 157 

tude it may be, like the Athenians, over-fond 
of novelty, yet owning souls to be saved, 
and minds to be filled, and hearts to be 
satisfied. 

Empty as most of the City churches are 
now, they were emptier in the days when 
Mrs. Jefifley kept her lodging-house in 
Fowkes' Buildings. 

Plenty of choice and to spare had her 
captains and mates and other residents in the 
matter of pews and spiritual refreshment. 
Some went here, some there, some nowhere. 
Each Sunday morning regularly Mr. Jeffley 
repaired to All Hallows, Barking. It was 
an easy distance, just across the street ; but 
Mrs. Jeffley was never able to manage the 
walk. 

She had something else to do, she said, than 
go to church ; she wondered " Jack could be so 
absurd as to suppose it was possible for her 
to leave the house. If he were like anybody 
else, he would know she could not go out 
while there was an early dinner to cook for 
so many people." 

" But you do not cook it," ventured Mr. 
Jeffley, on one occasion. 



158 MITRE COURT. 



" That has nothing to do with the matter," 
retorted Mrs. Jeffley. " Who'd see to things, 
I'd be glad to know, if I was like some 
women, thinking of myself and going to 
church and the theatres, and all sorts of 
amusements ? There are wives so situated 
they can leave their houses without every- 
thing going to wreck and ruin, but I am not 
one of them. I only wish I was. It is not 
from choice I stop moping indoors ; but 
there ! what is the good of talking ? As you 
are of no use at home, do take the children 
out of my way." 

Which Mr. Jeffley was wont to do, nothing 
loth, though he would have preferred con- 
ducting his progeny to church more suitably 
attired. A plain man himself, flowers, 
feathers, and finery seemed to his mind out 
of place in the severe dignity of All Hallows, 
Barking. 

Having, however, found remonstrance of 
no avail, honest Jack resigned himself to this 
dispensation as he had to others. It was 
not his way to quarrel. The soft answer 
which is usually supposed to turn away wrath, 
was that in which he most excelled, and if he 



SUNDAY. 159 

sometimes carried a sore heart with him into 
the house of God, at least he never took 
there the memoy of any bitter word he could 
have wished to recall. 

Often Frank Scott, who generally ac- 
companied him to the square pew where 
the children sat well in evidence, would, 
remembering the fray which usually preceded 
poor Mr. Jeffley's dismissal to public worship, 
involuntarily edge a little closer to his 
friend. 

No sentence had ever passed between 
them concerning the perfections or imperfec- 
tions of the self-styled best of wives ; but 
Frank Scott knew Jack understood his 
silence meant no absence of sympathy, and 
Jack mentally thanked Frank for that silence 
more than he would have thanked any man 
for speech. 

When once the dinner, on which Mrs. 
Jeffley found it necessary to concentrate all 
the strength of her intellect, was over, the 
members of the establishment were free to 
do whatever seemed best to them. After 
that stupendous culinary effort Mrs. Jeffley 
felt her hands were free. 



160 MITRE COURT. 



" Tea will be ready at half-past five," she 
was wont to say, " for any person who wants 
it." As a rule, very few did want it, grog 
being a beverage much more to the taste of 
Mrs. Jeffrey's seafaring friends than Congou. 
Supper was laid at nine — cold always. 

Each individual has his own way of 
keeping the Christian Sabbath holy. Mrs. 
Jeffrey kept it with cold meat, salad, and 
pickles. 

"There is never any cooking in my house," 
she frequently declared, " on Sundays after 
two o'clock dinner ; other people can do as 
they like, of course, but I am not going to 
have chops and steaks and kidneys grilling 
from morning till night on Sundays for any- 
body." 

Water for internal use was the only thing 
to be found hot in Mrs. Jeffrey's domain after 
the hour she mentioned, but of it a generous 
supply was provided. 

Those who remained at home, and those 
who passed the evening out, alike seemed to 
require quantities of that innocent fluid. 

" Pah !" said Mr. Katzen. " On Sunday 
night the house reeks of rum and whisky ;" 



SUNDAY. 161 

and he might have added of tobacco as well, 
and afterwards inserted an addendum to the 
effect that it reeked every night in like 
manner. 

So long as Jack "took himself out" of his 
wife's way, she cared very little where he 
spent the hours after his dinner on Sunday. 

Usually he went a few miles into the 
country to see some farmer friend, taking 
one or more of the children with him. 

Mr. Katzen had friends likewise, though 
unconnected with agriculture ; and when he 
did not visit them he was wont, weather and 
season permitting, to stroll into Hyde Park 
and picture to himself the time when he too 
would have his equipage — his coachman, his 
footman, and pair of chestnuts. 

On the Sunday following that Whitsuntide, 
when what he mentally styled " a great piece 
of luck " came to him, some vague idea of 
repairing to morning service and seeing Abby 
in her best bib and tucker crossed his mind ; 
but he refrained — first, because he had not a 
notion which church Miss Weir attended ; 
and second, because though flirting with and 
even offering to marry her under the rose 

VOL. i. 1 1 



1 62 MITRE COURT. 



was one thing, appearing in public as her 
lover seemed quite another. He meant no 
wrong by the girl ; if he had, he was aware 
it would have been of no use ; and in any 
case, though not a man timid of consequences, 
he knew the storm, in such event certain to 
ensue, might be dangerous. 

But what he called his heart did not hold 
any evil intention towards Abby. As a 
friend, as a comrade, as a wife, he felt she 
would suit him to perfection, but Abby be- 
trayed seemed quite another matter. 

" I shouldn't care to be the man," he 
considered ; " and yet girls as high-spirited 
as she have, without any great amount of 
persuasion either, trodden the downward path 
and proved meek enough at the bottom." 

With a feeling almost of dread, Mr. Katzen 
turned from the picture himself had drawn. 

" What can that old fool be thinking of?" 
ne considered, " to leave her alone as he 
does ? She might get into any mischief and 
he be not a bit the wiser. When I give up 
my office, who will be on the spot to know 
who comes and who goes ? It is necessary 
for thee to get rich, my Karl, and remove 



SUNDAY. 163 

her from temptation ; but till I am a little 
firmer I must not go too fast, I must refrain 
from spending time with my pretty vixen. 
And she also, she will like me the better 
when she sees that, after all, a man's whole 
world is not bounded by the light in a 
woman's eyes. My faith, neither is it ! If 
there were not a woman on earth, plenty of 
things would remain worth striving for — and 
money can buy them. That is so, my Karl ; 
money friend, money — the root of all evil, 
the root of all good !" 

As if in support of his theory, Miss Weir 
did on that especial Trinity Sunday morning, 
when she entered church, give one swift 
glance round as if searching for an expected 
face. She was adorned in youth ; a pretty 
coquettish bonnet, small, and of a shape just 
then in vogue. Her dress, of some cheap 
effective material, fitted her to perfection. 
Everything about her was trim, and what 
anyone of Mrs. Jeffley's admirers might truly 
have called "taut" — no flying ribbons, or 
waving plumes, or ends of lace. The set of 
her gown, the fit of her boots and gloves, 
reminded one of a Frenchwoman ; but she 

1 1 — 2 



1 64 MITRE COURT. 



was fresh and bright and wholesome, and 
good to look upon, as though that moment 
come out of some great English country- 
house. There mi^ht be much in her lot, and 
something in her cruel past, a good mother 
could have wished different, but there was 
nothing in her face. 

Across it sunshine and shadow were for 
ever playing at hide-and-seek. Now the 
eyes were dancing with amusement and 
smiles that showed cunning dimples in the 
cheeks, and made any male onlooker believe 
the girl could never seem prettier than 
when full of fun, nearly rippling over into 
laughter. 

But when she was serious — when sad or 
grave or sorry — there arose out of the depths 
of her nature an expression which gave to 
every feature a beauty hitherto lacking. It 
seemed as though at such times it was her 
real soul which looked out of the window of 
her eyes — the spirit known only to God— 
which for a brief instant made itself dimly 
perceived. Then, as through a veil darkly, 
there could be caught a glimpse of a nature 
able to bear, not merely patiently, but cheer- 



SUNDA Y. 165 

fully, such loneliness and deprivation and 
hardship as fall to the lot of few. 

Out of the unlikeliest materials she had 
built a palace of content. In her life, as in 
the room where she spent most of her solitary 
hours, there was nothing - the world would 
have accounted beautiful or desirable, yet she 
so set out and decked her existence, just 
as she did the few articles her apartment 
contained, that she ended by making believe 
she had everything at command the heart of 
woman need desire to render her happy. 

Pass out from some great house where you 
have seen the children of rich people — pale 
and peevish, tired of luxury, weary of their 
toys, disgusted by the very profusion of gifts 
they have received — and, wandering into the 
nearest street in which Poverty dwells, ask 
yourself whether even in this world there is 
no compensation for the poor ? Behold yon 
group of happy, grimy little girls gathered 
round the proud possessor of that old, filthy, 
battered wooden doll, which has met with 
every casualty possible to its species. It has 
lain among the cinders— it has been thrust 
between the bars of the orate — it has been 



1 66 MITRE COURT. 



flung against brick walls by rude boys, and 
got its nose battered — it has not as much 
hair on its pate as could suffice to split a 
cane ; yet it remains beautiful to the imagina- 
tion of its followers. It is hugged to sleep 
in the arms of some tiny child scarce less 
ugly, and quite as dirty as itself. Or view 
this group of young persons, not one of 
whose ages exceeds five years. They are 
kneeling or squatting on the pavement — 
which can make their garments no grimier 
than before — engaged in the entrancing occu- 
pation of making a mud pie. They are as 
filthy as the pie, but that adds to the pleasure 
of their lives. They know at any moment a 
shrill voice, followed by the possessor of a 
strong hand, may come to interrupt their joy ; 
but they catch the fleeting moments — the 
very incertitude intensifies their rapture. 

The upshot of all of which is, that they 
who have the least enjoy it the most ; that 
the mind can spread a feast out of the 
humblest viands : that for the benefit of 
those of low estate and of no account, 
miracles, which to the rich might well seem 
tantamount to the marvel of five thousand 



SUNDAY. 167 

being fed on five barley-loaves and two small 
fishes, are daily repeated. 

For Abigail Weir most certainly they 
were. In the time which ensued after she 
sought and found a shelter in Botolph Lane, 
she had not even the semblance of a wooden 
doll wherewith, like other children, to play 
at mother, nurse, schoolmistress, aunt and 
sister ; but she made her own play for her- 
self. The very stones of the courtyard 
seemed capable of providing the poor waif 
with amusement. The old house — with its 
leads, its long passages, its steep back-stairs, 
its brewhouse, its inlaid circles on the draw- 
ing-room chimney-piece, its marble hearths, 
its wainscots, its panelling — was to her a 
kingdom, the resources of which seemed in- 
exhaustible. 

The moment she grew strong enough to 
stand on her poor thin little legs she began 
to sing, and then to try to be useful. Since 
those days the years had passed, and she 
was, as Mr. Katzen truthfully said, a child 
" not any more," but she was merry and 
helpful still. 

On that Trinity Sunday, the few persons 



1 68 MITRE COURT. 



who were in church knew and spoke to her. 
She was a stray, friendless and desolate no 
longer, but a bright, pretty girl, who, having 
worked hard for six days, always looked for- 
ward to the beofinninQ" of a week as the 
happiest of happy seasons. 

She had left the dinner cooking itself, and 
on her return home served it almost immedi- 
ately. It was a simple meal, as simple almost 
as meal could be ; yet Mr. Brisco declared 
such an expenditure could not possibly con- 
tinue. 

" Put any money you have to spare in the 
savings-bank," he said almost harshly; "but 
don't spend it on luxurious meals. You will 
want it all some day. Supposing anything 
were to happen to me, and you were forced 
to turn out of here, how would you pay, even 
for lodgings, if you did not possess a sixpence 
between you and starvation ?" 

" I don't mean anything to happen to 
you," she answered ; " but if anything did 
happen," she went on, recognising the evil 
mood which held possession of Mr. Brisco, 
" we know who tempers the wind to the 
shorn lamb. Was not I a shorn lamb when 



SUNDAY. 169 

I came here ? and only think what a warm 
fold I have lain snug in ever since !" 

As she spoke, she laid her hand impul- 
sively on Mr. Brisco's arm. 

With distressing promptitude he removed 
and eave it back to her aQ-ain. He was wont 
thus to repress any approach to familiarity. 
If he did not say in so many words that such 
demonstrations were unpleasant to him, he 
told her the fact by actions which were un- 
mistakable. They had lived together during 
years, yet though the girl loved him with all 
her heart, they w T ere scarcely nearer than the 
first night they met. 

Mr. Brisco barely tasted the frugal dinner, 
and before Abigail had finished her meal he 
took his hat and went out. Shortly after his 
departure, Miss Weir also emerged from the 
gloom of the house, so old, so changed, so 
lonely, so forlorn, into the bright sunshine 
which bathed Tower Street, as if in a sea of 
molten eold. 




CHAPTER IX. 



LESS THAN KIN. 




iN the very heart of the City there 
are on Sunday walks to be found 
as quiet and as desolate as though 
Cheapside were Box Hill, or Lombard Street 
Salisbury Plain. 

From Ironmonger Lane to St. Martin's- 
le-Grand anyone may thread his way through 
passages where scarce a creature is to be 
encountered, and if he likes to continue his 
peregrinations, he can by a series of similar 
courts and alleys get in equal silence to 
Basinghall Street. 

It was this precise route Abigail Weir 
followed in the calm stillness of that glorious 
afternoon. 

In some of the churches service was aa-ain 



LESS THA N KIN. 1 7 1 



in progress, and every now and then a burst 
of psalmody or a long-drawn-out " Amen " 
rent for a moment the heavy cloud of calm 
stillness which hung over the great City. 

Slowly the girl paced the narrow passages, 
not alone. At a glance it might have been 
seen she was accustomed thus to walk fre- 
quently, for between herself and her com- 
panion there evidently existed such an amount 
of intimacy as rendered constant conversation 
superfluous. 

Abigail looked very sweet. Her heart 
was full, and the tender light of a sorrowful 
and infinite compassion lay softly upon her 
young face. The man — naturally it was a 
man who kept step with her, shortening his 
own strides in order to do so — from time to 
time stole a glance at her. Something had 
vexed her, and he scarcely cared to ask what 
it was. Friends, however, cannot long keep 
silence under such circumstances, and at 
length he asked tentatively : 

" What are you thinking of, Abby ? What 
is the worry ?" 

She looked up at him with a suspicion of 
tears in those eyes which, though in no sense 



172 MITRE COURT. 



"fine," were after all, this man felt, the 
dearest, truest eyes friend or lover could 
wish to meet. 

" Worth all the browns and blacks and blues 
ever painted or sung," thought this mad adorer, 
forgetful of the thousand shades and shapes 
each of those despised colours can assume. 

" There is no worry," answered Abby. " I 
was thinking of Mr. Brisco." 

" You are always thinking of him," said the 
young man — he was young — a little reproach- 
fully. 

" Not always, though very often," amended 
the girl. 

" If he were your father he could not be 
more constantly in your mind." 

" If he were my father I should not fret 
about him as I do." 

" Why not ?" 

" Because in that case he would surely let 
me do something he will not now." 

" What something ?" 

" Let me show that I am fond of him," she 
said softly, and then her full heart could 
contain itself no longer, and she poured her 
trouble into sympathetic ears. 



LESS THAN KIN. 173 



"It was not what you would account a 
nice dinner," she went on, "but I had taken 
pains to get something I thought he would 

like — and — and — it seems stupid, but "she 

broke off abruptly, and then added, " I wish 
— I wish I knew how I could please him. 
I do try hard." 

" Don't you know, Abby," said the young 
man, " there are some persons so unfortu- 
nately constituted that they cannot be pleased, 
who, unhappy themselves, make everyone else 
unhappy ? I am afraid this is the case with 
Mr. Brisco." 

"No, the fault is in myself; perhaps I 
am too anxious, or perhaps he cannot forget 
what a forlorn, wretched creature I was when 
I skulked into his house like a starved cat." 

" Why do you talk of the past ?" 

" I cannot tell, unless because it has been 
so present with me lately. This is not 
winter, or a cold day, is it ? and yet, do you 
know, I can feel the cruel icy chill of that 
night now as I walk. There was a time 
when I had almost forgotten it ; but the 
memory of my degraded childhood has been 
growing stronger and stronger ever since I 



i"4 MITRE COURT. 



came to know you. I wonder how it 
happens." 

The listener thought he understood very 
well how it happened ; but he remained 
silent. 

" What would have become of me," went 
on the girl, " if I had not happened to turn 
in under the archway ? And oh ! what a 
fright it gave me, to hear the gate shut 
before I could creep away again ! I shall 
never forget wandering round the courtyard 
and peeping out of the cold and darkness 
into the old house. I thought no palace 
could be more beautiful, and then at last 
came that one night — I slipped in, and popped 
down into the cellar while the men were busy 
taking the last of the office furniture through 
the other door ; but I have told you all this 
before," she sighed. 

"Yes, and I never want to hear a word 
about it again. Poor Abby, you must have 
spent many a wretched day in the house since 
that night." 

" No — after I knew I should be allowed to 
stop I was never unhappy. The life was 
heaven, after what I had gone through ; and 



LESS THAN KIN. 



now I haven't a care in the world except the 
one— that I cannot make Mr. Brisco's lot 
brighter. If I could only see a different look 
in his worn face ! I wish some one would 
leave him a fortune — a great fortune. I 
wonder how it happens he is so poor ?" 

" Many people — most people are poor," 
was the answer. 

" Ah ! but not such people as Mr. Brisco. 
I cannot tell you how clever he is ! When I 
am alone I often fall a-dreaming about him, 
and I sometimes dream — do not laugh at me 
— that something must have gone all wrong 

o o o 

in his life when he was as young as you, per- 
haps. A man can get a limb broken — why 
can't a life be broken too ?" 

" How absurd you are, Abby!" 

" No, I am not. Now and then, when he 
has been walking about at night, I have heard 
words I could not help hearing. Frank," 
she broke off to say, " I want to tell you 
something I have never told to anyone." 

" Do not tell it to me," he said, " if it is 
something Mr. Brisco would not care to have 
repeated." 

" I shall tell it to you — at least, there are 



176 MITRE COURT. 



two things instead of one. I must go back 
to the time when I went to the old house — 
you know what a tiny atom I was ?" 

He nodded. 

" I was stunted, and so thin you might 
have seen through me if you held me up 
between you and the light — I was a complete 
scarecrow, a bundle of rags and tatters — I had 
not clothing enough to keep out the cold — 
and it was a piercing, piercing winter." 

" Oh! my dear, why will you speak about 
those cruel days ?" 

" Because it is part of my story. Well, the 
first morning Mr. Brisco saw me — for I kept 
as much as I could out of his way — I was 
shaking both with fright and cold. 

" ' What's the matter with you, child ?' he 
asked. I tried to answer him, but I could 
not, so he went away, and after a little while 
returned with an old jacket in his hand, 
and said, ' Slip that on ; it will keep you 
warm.' 

" ' It is a boy's jacket,' I answered, not 
meaning at all to offend him, but just because 
I felt surprised. 

"'Whether it is or not is no business of 



LESS THAN KIN. 177 

yours/ he told me, quite in a pet. ' Put it on 
and stop shivering.' 

He spoke so roughly, and seemed so vexed, 
I cried and begged his pardon ; but he went 
out of the room and banged the door behind 
him." 

" And did you wear the jacket ?" 
" Yes, till it fell to tatters — it was moth- 
eaten when he gave it to me ; but while it 
held together it kept me beautifully warm. 
Well, that is the first thing. The next is 
this : a long time afterwards, when I was 
moving some old boxes in his room to get 
the dust from behind them, I found that the 
lid of one came up in my hand ; it was locked, 
but the hinges had given from the wood. In 
a moment the room seemed to be filled with 
a smell like the scent of dead roses and dried 
lavender, and spices and old coffins. I just 
peeped in ; I could not resist doing that. 
The box was piled full of women's clothes — 
dresses and linen, and lace and ribbons. I 
wonder who the 'she' was that owned them. 
I'd have given anything" to rummage to the 
bottom of those things packed maybe before 
I was born." 
vol. 1. 12 



178 MITRE COURT. 



" But you did not, dear. I am sure you 
did not." 

" No ; I shut down the lid again, and 
pushed the box back in its place. Well, and 
more than that, I have often heard Mr. 
Brisco at night muttering about some one 
called Faith : Faith may have been his sister 
or his wife. He does not look, though, as if 
he had ever been married ; does he ?" 

" How do people look when they are 
married ?" asked the young man with a smile, 
which was not mirthful. 

" I scarcely know; but not like Mr. Brisco, 
at any rate." 

"Certainly," answered the young man ; "I 
never before saw a man who seemed so 
utterly lonely and miserable." 

" He is indeed most lonely," agreed the 
girl sadly. " He keeps me at arm's length ; 
yet," she added, brightening up a little, " I 
think he speaks to me oftener than he used. 
Once or thrice he has asked me what I am 
making ; and though he did speak so sharply 
to me this afternoon, still on Friday, after 
looking me over in his strange way, he said, 
' Why, you are growing quite a woman !' " 



LESS THAN KIN. 179 

" He is right ; so you are. Did he add 
anything after that original remark ?" 

"Yes." But Miss Weir did not explain 
its nature. 

" What was it ? Come, Abby, you need 
not be so stiff with me." 

" Only " and she stopped and blushed, 

even while she laughed. 

" Only — that is nothing : finish your sen- 
tence." 

" He said," and her blush deepened, 
" ' Don't let the young men make a fool of 
you. 

"Excellent advice — excellent as terse. 
And you, Abby ?" 

" I told him I would take very good care 
no man, old or young, made a fool of me." 

" And what did he answer ?" 

" That he believed it w T ould require some 
trouble ; but I must remember, the race was 
not always to the swift, or the battle to the 
strong ; and that, sharp though I was, I might 
meet with some one cleverer than myself." 

" He did not offer you the benefit of his 
experience, should you ever feel you stood in 
need of it?" 

12 — 2 



i8o MITRE COURT. 



" No ; that was all he said. He was 
crossing the hall when he stopped to speak, 
and he went out of the house when he had 
finished." 

" And you sat down to ponder over his 
words ?" 

" I did no such thing. I went to Aldgate 
to buy this bonnet-shape." 

" With which to make a fool of some man," 
suggested her friend. 

" Perhaps so — perhaps not," she answered, 
with a little toss of her head. " But," she 
quickly added, " I won't try to make a fool of 
you ! 

It may be that the minx knew she had 
done that already. She must, indeed, have 
been dense not to understand the whole of 
Frank Scott's heart was given to her. In 
his simplicity he believed she could have no 
knowledge of the fact. He saw nothing but 
trouble which could come of it for many a 
long day, and with chivalrous unselfishness 
he desired to bear that trouble alone. It was 
through no fault of hers, or folly of his, he 
chanced to fall in love with the girl. All 
their intercourse had been conducted on 



LESS THAN KIN. 1S1 

principles of the strictest friendship. He 
was a lonely waif, she as lonely a stray : he 
earned his living hardly, so did she ; he 
wanted some one to talk to, that proved to 
be her case precisely ; he had no sister, she 
no brother. Heaven evidently must have 
destined each to be brother, sister, to the 
other. Mr. Scott had arrived in London 
without knowing a soul in the length or 
breadth of that hospitable city ; and the very 
evening of his arrival he met with a stranger 
who afterwards proved kind as any relative. 
Miss Weir had lived all her life in London, 
and knowing a great many people she wished 
to avoid, she found herself one night, after 
numberless odd and unpleasant experiences, 
an inmate of a house where she was not 
in the least expected or wanted. After 
she and Mr. Scott had been acquainted 
for a short time, she told the young man 
almost everything about herself, and felt 
relieved to find he was not so much 
shocked by the story as might have been 
expected. 

" You must always look and count upon 
me as if I were your brother," he said, and 



MITRE COURT. 



not to seem proud or disagreeable, Miss 
Weir answered that she would. 

When this pact was first entered into, the 
young lady had, as nearly as she could say, 
without possessing any baptismal certificate 
or memory of merry birthdays to which to 
refer the important question, turned her 
sixteenth year, while Mr. Frank Scott was, 
he knew 7 , over twenty-one, and in those 
days he seemed to Abigail very old indeed. 
Each time they met, however — and they 
met often — the disparity appeared to lessen. 
Miss Weir had been privileged to see a great 
deal of life, and, as she herself obligingly 
stated, she was not one to go through the 
world with her eyes shut. On the one occa- 
sion when Abigail repeated Mr. Brisco's re- 
mark, the pair had known each other for a 
space of nearly twelve months, and yet no 
one was aware of the fact. 

The girl had sense enough to keep silence 
to her many acquaintances ; the young man 
did not know any person in whose ear he 
would have cared to whisper the secret. At 
intervals his conscience pricked him when he 
looked at Mr. Jeffley, but he knew if he told 



LESS THAN KIN. 183 

Jack, Jack would tell his wife, and Mrs. 
Jeffrey would tell the parish ; for which ex- 
cellent reason he held his peace, and still, 
only of course in a friendly way, managed 
pretty frequently to see Miss Weir, who was 
a law to herself, and whose time, unlike 
Mr. Scott's, was pretty nearly at her own 
disposal. 

" Frank," she began maliciously, after a 
short pause, "you would never try to make a 
fool of me, would you ?" 

" Why should you ask such a question ?" 
he retorted a little sharply. " How could I 
if I would ?" 

" I do not know," she said ; "only I have 
been wondering whether Mr. Brisco had you 
in his mind when he spoke ; whether he 
could have seen me with you." 

" Good heavens ! I hope not," exclaimed 
Frank. 

" Why should you hope not ?" she inquired. 

" Because — because — I don't suppose he 
would be pleased to see you with any one, 
more especially with such a poor out-at- 
elbows chap as I am." 

" You can't be poorer than he is." 



1 84 MITRE COURT. 



" All the more reason why he would object 
to your knowing me." 

" I can't see that." 

" Well, I can. Here we are in Hounds- 
ditch. I must leave you now, Abby, I'm 
afraid. Good-bye." 

" Good-bye," she answered. 

And for the first time there was a touch of 
constraint, almost of sadness, in her tone. 

" What is the matter with you, dear ?" he 
said, holding her hand. 

" Nothing — that is, I don't know. We 
had better not stand here. Some one may 
pass — and — — " 

With a sigh the young man released her 
hand, and, waiting only to watch her retreat- 
ing figure disappear down St. Mary Axe, 
turned his face towards Aldeate. 





CHAPTER X. 



MRS. CHILDS THEORY. 




OMINALLY Mrs. Jeffley was the 
mistress of her own house and 
actions : certainly she was master, 
because Jack counted as nobody ; neverthe- 
less, it is a fact that she felt afraid to tell 
Mrs. Childs she had not merely made Miss 
Weir's acquaintance, but extended patronage 
to that unworthy young person. 

Mrs. Childs had no right to dictate what, 
or what not her employer should do. She 
was accustomed to earn her weekly wage in 
dirt and outward submission inside Fowkes' 
Buildings. She never advanced the absurd 
theory that her body, much less her soul, was 
her own property. She always appeared fit 
and ready to do everything ; she " knew 



1 86 MITRE COURT. 



better" than to refuse to do anything from 
the first hour Mrs. Jeffley and she " came to 
terms." She was that lady's slave, drudge, 
and echo ; but still, had she been a severe 
schoolmistress, and the bustling Maria a 
child secretly guilty of some grave dis- 
obedience, the latter could not have looked 
forward to the hour of disclosure with greater 
disquietude. 

She knew that hour must come, no matter 
with what care and cunning she might try to 
retard its striking. She adopted all sorts of 
little expedients— such as naming special 
hours ; contriving herself to be in the way 
when Abigail was expected ; keeping Mrs. 
Childs out of sight and hearing till the 
danger for the day had passed ; calling her- 
self in Botolph Lane ; and on one occasion 
even chartering a lad to carry back a parcel 
of finished work for her rather than allow 
Abigail to bring it. 

Spite of all precautions, however, the 
acquaintance was not a month old before 
Miss Weir and Mrs. Childs met face to face. 
They did not speak, of course. Miss Weir 
passed into the hall with a calm indifference 



MRS. CHILD '5' THEORY. 187 

practice had rendered perfect. Mrs. Childs 
stepped out from the hall with an air of what 
would have been haughty contempt, but for 
the misfortune that the sight of " Missy 
dressed out in cool muslin and impidence " 
marred the effect of what rnig;ht have been a 
fine situation. 

" You saw Mrs. Childs, I suppose, as you 
came in ?" said Mrs. Jeffley to Miss Weir, 
when they were both seated in Jack's own 
parlour. 

She put the sentence as a question, though 
indeed she knew perfectly well the encounter 
must have taken place. 

" Oh yes — I saw her," answered Abigail. 

" Do you not think she looks a great deal 
better than she used ?" 

" It did not strike me." 

Now this, had Miss Weir only known it, 
seemed to Mrs. Jeffley a very cruel blow. 
She was so accustomed to hear Mrs. Childs 
—a woman who could not have been fattened 
had anyone cooped her — speak as though, 
since her translation from Botolph Lane to 
the heaven of Fowkes' Buildings, she could 
only be regarded as a female Daniel Lam- 



MITRE COURT. 



bert, that Abigail's lack of perception as 
to the improvement in the worthy woman's 
physical condition struck her as singularly 
unkind. 

" I assure you," said Mrs. Jeffley with 
eager earnestness, " since she came to me 
she is quite another person ; she acknow- 
ledges that herself." 

" You could not have the statement on 
better authority," answered Miss Weir 
drily. 

"At any rate, she ought to be strong," 
went on Mrs. Jeffley. (t She lives well 
enough here." 

"I have no doubt of that!" agreed the 
girl, as though there had been something else 
she did doubt. 

Mrs. Jeffley, finding that the subject of 
her charwoman's charms failed to excite the 
keen interest it should have done in Miss 
Weir's breast, began to turn over the " little 
things," just completed by that clever young 
lady, with an appearance of great attention. 

"You are a treasure!" she said at last. 
" I cannot express how much obliged I feel 
to you." 



MRS. CHILD '5' THEORY. 189 

" The obligation is quite as much on my 
side," answered Abigail. 

" I only wish I could keep you here 
always. What a help and comfort you would 
be to me !" 

" I do not think I should," said the girl 
bluntly. 

" Why not ?" 

" Well, for one thing, because I like my 
way, and, unless I ami very much mistaken, 
you like your way too." 

" But surely our ways need not clash." 

" I fancy they would ; at any rate, I know 
they might. But as we are never likely 
to be together more than we are now, 
it is scarcely worth while wasting our 
time considering whether they would or 
not. 

" No one can tell what may happen. It is 
the unlikely things that generally happen — 
now, isn't it ? Anyhow, I know I would 
give a good deal to have just such a bright 
active girl as yourself in the house to take 
part of the burden off my shoulders." 

This was precisely what Mrs. Childs 
understood Mrs. Jeffley either happened to 



igo MITRE COURT. 



be thinking at that moment, or would be 
thinking ere she was much older. 

No one possessed a quicker eye for, or a 
more subtle insight into, the weaknesses of 
her employers than Mrs. Childs, and she had 
devoted an amount of observation and a 
space of time to poor Mrs. Jeffley's failings 
that finally rendered her quite at home in the 
darkest recesses of that lady's mind. 

" She'd have the young slut there," 
thought the drudge, as she sped on the 
errand which had called her out, " before 
you could wink twice — a-sitting in the best 
room in the house, and spying and prying, 
and here and there and everywhere all in a 
minute, and laughing and saucing with the 
men, and driving me to look, at my age, for 
some other place to earn my bread, which 
the Lord knows is often dry and hard 
enough now. And Mrs. Jeffley wouldn't 
care a bit ; no, not a pin's point, so long as 
she got her own turn served, or thought she 
did. I wonder how they got together. It's 
that Katzen's doings, I'll be bound. Mrs. 
Jeffley is crazy about him — anybody can see 
that with half an eye — and he's sweet on 



MRS. CHILD 5' THEORY. 191 



Missy. He always was, from the day he 
saw her dancing across the hall with the lid 
of an old tin saucepan, making believe it was 
a tambourine. I'd have tambourined her if 
she'd been my child. However, Miss Abigail 
Weir, if that's her right name — which 
for all anybody can tell may be anything — 
ain't in Fowkes' Buildings yet ; and it's my 
belief she knows on which side her bread's 
buttered far too well ever to be. Still, mind 
you," finished Mrs. Childs, mentally address- 
ing the combined wit, wisdom, and wealth of 
the ward of Billingsgate, which she was at 
the moment perambulating as swiftly as 
though beating the boundaries, " if she took 
it into her head to be mistress of that house, 
as she is of another in which she has no 
more right than my Sophiar, it would be 
neither you nor me would hinder her. All 
the same, however, I'll do my best to put a 
spoke in her wheel." 

Half an hour is no very long period of 
time. Yet before it had elapsed Mrs. Jeffley 
and her charwoman had determined on the 
tactics it behoved each of them to pursue. 

When Mrs. Childs returned from executing 



192 MITRE COURT. 



the errand which had necessitated a visit to 
Crooked Lane, she found Mrs. Jeffley lying 
back in an arm-chair seeming utterly ex- 
hausted. 

"Aren't you feeling very well, ma'am?" 
asked the Fowkes' Buildings Iris, in accents 
of the profoundest sympathy. 

" I am so tired — I feel quite knocked up," 
answered Mrs. Jeffley ; and indeed she did 
look somewhat pale and worn. 

" Ah ! I was afraid it was coming, 'm. I 
didn't like to speak, because I know you 
never wish no notice took, even if you're 
ready to drop, as one may say ; but I thought 
to myself, when I looked at you this morning, 
' Mistress has been overdoing it aofain.' 
Those were the very words passed through 
my mind. You ought to be more careful of 
yourself — you ought indeed." 

" I am as careful of myself as I can," 
answered Mrs. Jeffley a little pettishly. 
" What is the use of talking nonsense ? 
How is it possible for me to be always con- 
sidering my health, with this great house full 
of boarders, and Susan going, and not a 
living creature to help me but you ?" 



JIHS. CHILD S' THEORY. 193 

" And I am sure, ma'am, I wish I could 
help you more ; though I do my best, it's 
little, I'm aware." 

"You do a great deal," returned Mrs. 
Jeffley, in a tone which somehow implied 
less praise to Mrs. Childs than blame to 
some one else. " I wonder if that girl has got 
any boiling water ?" 

"If she hasn't, I can soon make some 
boil." 

" And do you think you could bring me a 
cup of tea ?" 

" Of course I could, 'm ; but if I might take it 
on myself to speak, I wouldn't run down as you 
are — no, I wouldn't take any tea at this time of 
the day. Nobody relishes a cup more than I 
do, especially when good, as it always is here ; 
but it's not fit for one who has so much on 
her mind as you, 'm. It lies dreadful heavy 
round the heart, and you should remember 
you're up and down stairs constant. There 
was my first cousin, Martha was her name. 
She died of dropsy, and her one moan was 
for tea. ' Do — do make me some, Jane,' she 
used to cry, quite pitiful. The doctor said it 
hurried her off." 

vol. 1. i-x 



194 MITRE COURT. 



" Well, I have not got dropsy, or anything 
else the matter with me, except worry," re- 
torted Mrs. Jeffley, raising herself into an 
upright posture ; " and that I shall have till I 
die," she added, with a sort of desperation, 
flinging herself back again against the chair. 

Mrs. Childs did not answer ; she only 
shook her head sadly, with a gesture it was a 
pity none stood near to see. In our midst 
there live most meritorious actresses who 
never have been, and never will be, seen on 
any other than the domestic stage. 

Had all belonging to her been that moment 
swept into eternity, Mrs. Childs could not 
have left the room with a sadder mien or 
more lingering step. There must have lain 
perdu in her nature somewhat of the same 
spirit that prompted the mimic Othello to 
black himself all over ; for though neither 
Mrs. Jeffley, nor anyone who cared twopence 
about Mrs. Jeffley, was there to see, she 
maintained the same mournfulness of tone 
and demeanour while making the tea and 
cutting some thin slices of ham. 

" You mustn't be angry with me, ma'am," 
she said, in a sort of would-be-cheerful-if-I- 



MRS. CHILDS' THEORY. 195 

could, but still most sorrowful voice, setting 
down the nicely laid out tray at Mrs. Jeffrey's 
elbow, " for taking the liberty of bringing 
you up a morsel of relish. I can't abear to 
see you going on day after day, thinking 
always about other people and never about 
yourself. And the pity is, there's nobody to 
think about you, 'm. I only wish I'd 
nothing to do but that. What you want is 
somebody to wait on you hand and foot — 
somebody better learned than me, that could 
do in a big way what I strive to do for you 
in a little. Now do, ma'am, try to pick a bit. 
There's not half an ounce of ham — and a 
beautiful ham it is — you always do buy the 
best of everything — but I took particular 
pains to cut it what Captain Hassell calls 
Vauxhall fashion. I couldn't make you any 
toast, the fire was so low." 

" That vretched girl ! she 7ieverhas a fire," 
murmured Mrs. Jeffley. 

" May I pour out your tea — or will you 
pour for yourself, 'm ? I hope you'll find it 
to your mind. I'll leave you to sugar and 
milk for yourself. Now do — do, ma'am, 
force yourself to eat a bit of the ham — it's cut 

T -J r% 



196 MITRE COURT. 

rrost delicate. You'll be laid up if you go 
on neglecting yourself as you are doing- — -I 
know you will. I've said so to Sophiar times 
without number." 

Upon Mrs. Jeffley the name of Sophia 
always acted like a red rag on a turkey- 
cock. 

For that young person she had the natural 
if unchristian dislike well-formed, healthy, 
good-looking human beings generally enter- 
tain for those unfortunates against whom 
nature seems to have entertained a grudge. 

Instantly she turned to the table, and, 
after adding a goodly supply of milk, took a 
long draught of tea — just such a draught as 
Mrs. Childs, after the heat and burden of a 
long day's work, liked to take herself. 

" That is good !" she said, laying down 
the empty cup. " I feel better already." 

Hearing which delightful news her hench- 
woman poured out another supply, and again 
obtruded the ham on Mrs. Jeffley's atten- 
tion. 

" I may just as well have my lunch now as 
later," compromised the lady. " I shan't 
touch another morsel to-day." 



MR S. CHILD 5? THEORY. 197 

" Don't say that, 'm/' entreated Mrs. 
Childs. 

" But I must say it, for it's the truth. I 
am getting completely knocked up. I'm 
regularly worn out." 

Mrs. Childs sighed audibly, and proffered 
some bread and butter. 

There are times when silence seems even 
more golden than it does at others. 

Mrs. Jeffley accepted two slices of bread 
and butter, which she folded face to face — this 
is a seductive way of utilizing those articles. 

"Mrs. Childs," she said. 

" Yes, ma'am," answered Mrs. Childs, all 
attention. 

" I have quite made up my mind " 

Mrs. Childs waited warily to hear what 
Mrs. Jeffley's mind had in contemplation. 

" To go to Margate for a fortnight." 

" I don't blame you, ma'am," cried Mrs. 
Childs, relieved. 

" I feel I am getting worn out here. 
What with one and what with another, there 
is no rest for the sole of my foot. The dove 
Noah sent out to find out the state of the 
weather for him had not a harder time of it 



MITRE COURT. 



than I have, and if I was dead and buried 
my husband wouldn't care." 

Once more the misery of it all proved too 
much for Mrs. Childs, who, again shaking 
her head, murmured : 

" Ah ! he'd know the difference." 

" But," resumed Mrs. Jeffley, " I have no 
intention of dying yet awhile, or being buried 
lor anybody ; so to Margate I'll go. They 
say it's wonderfully reviving. Mr. Jeffley 
and any of the lodgers that like can come 
down Saturday to Monday — -the trip's cheap 
enough ; those that don't like must do the 
other thing. I'll kill myself for nobody." 

" You'd never get thanked for it," said 
Mrs. Childs pensively. " And I do hope 
and trust you'll stick to going, ma'am, though 
whatever we shall do without you I am sure 
I don't know." 

" You must rub along somehow," answered 
Mrs. Jeffley. " I dare say I shall be as glad 
to be back as you to see me. I won't take 
much down ; just a morning-gown or two, 
and a Sunday dress ; and the children must 
be made tidy, for of course they'll go with 
me ; but I can manage that. By-the-bye, 



MR S. CHILD 5' THEORY. 199 

you were surprised, I have no doubt, to meet 
Miss Weir coming here this morning ?" 

"Well, 'm," confessed Mrs. Childs, "to 
speak the truth, which is a thing, poor 
though I may be, ma'am, I always endeavour 
to do, and always should feel bound to do to 
a lady like yourself — as is a lady, hoping 
you won't be offended by my freedom, and 
meaning no offence — I did feel for a moment 
took aback when I met Miss Abby when I 
was running out to fetch what Captain Hasselt 
wanted, and hope he found to his satisfaction ; 
but once I remembered myself — I called to 
mind that you had asked me about her on 
Whit Monday night, and that I said to the 
child as we were sitting over our morsel of 
supper, ' Missus never does anything with- 
out a reason, and a good one, and you 
may depend it was not for nothing she 
wanted me to tell her some little about Miss 
Weir.' " 

" She is doing some needlework for 
me. 

"Indeed, m!" 

"And beautifully she does it." 

" I always was given to understand no 



MITRE COURT. 



manner of fault could be found with her as 
far as cleverness goes," said Mrs. Childs, 
judicially impartial. 

" And so quick, too," supplemented Mrs. 
Jeffley. " I never saw anyone else get over 
what she has to do so fast." 

"Oh! she's fast enough, I'm aware, 'm. 
Nobody can deny that." 

" Now, I wonder," said Mrs. Jeffley, 
helping herself to another piece of ham — 
(" 111 or well, she's getting through the whole 
of it," considered Sophia's aunt) — " what 
makes you so set against the girl. She does 
not say anything bitter against you." 

" And very good reason too," retorted 
Mrs. Childs, venom for the moment over- 
mastering those manners on which she prided 
herself, and for which no doubt, at a remote 
period of her life, some one had paid two- 
pence a week. " She couldn't say anything 
against me — that is, if she spoke the 
truth." 

" I tell you she never has," said Mrs. 
Jeffley snappishly. 

" I am very pleased to hear so, I'm sure, 
'm. Though it is no more than justice, I 



MRS. CHILD S' THEORY. 



did not expect as much from Miss Abigail 
Weir, if that's what Mr. Katzen talks about 
being her nom digger." 

" Mrs. Jeffley opened her mouth to ask 
Mrs. Childs what she meant, but, on reflec- 
tion, shut it aeain. There ensued a moment's 
silence while she sat — bread, butter, ham, and 
tea all unheeded — looking straight before her 
at nothing. 

" I wonder what her mind's at work on 
now," thought Mrs. Childs ; but she too re- 
frained from speech. 

" Nobody knows," began Mrs. Jeffley at 
last, " the relief it is to me to have got hold 
of such a girl. She is just the person I have 
been wanting for years. When I think of 
the money I've wasted, as one may say, over 
people who could not put in a stitch decently, 
I can scarcely contain myself." 

Mrs. Childs, for the third time, shook 
her head mournfully. The incompetency ot 
sempstresses, and the consequent trials of 
a virtuous matron, were themes on which 
she felt it scarcely safe to enter, more 
especially as she herself had recommended 
a certain Mrs. Lacey, who had proved a 



MITRE COURT. 



disastrous failure, for the post of wardrobe- 
keeper to the juvenile Jeffreys. 

" Now this Miss Weir," went on Mrs. 
Jeffrey, brightening up a little in consequence 
of finding she had made a point and could 
improve upon it, " takes all trouble off my 
hands. She buys better than I can. She is 
able to plan and cut out. She is not above 
altering or contriving, and she has the things 
here back almost before anyone would have 
thought she had time to baste the seams. I 
only wish I had come across her years ago." 

" I'm sure I wish you had, ma'am." 

" She is likely to be a real comfort to me." 

" Any thing or person that's a comfort to 
you must be a pleasure to me, 'm," said 
Mrs. Childs, with cringing diplomacy. 

"So you need not be surprised if you see 
her often here now." 

" I won't, m." 

" For I intend to give her a great deal of 
work." 

" Of course, 'm, you will do just as you 
please about that," said Mrs. Childs, who 
was bursting with rage. 

"You may be very sure I shall, and I 



MR S. CHILD 5' THEORY 



cannot see why you should put yourself out 
because I have at last got acquainted with 
the girl." 

" Me put myself out, 'm!" returned Mrs. 
Childs, in a tone of well-assumed amazement 
and reproach. " I hope I know my place, 
and have behaved according. I have always 
strove to do my duty ; and though you may 
sometimes have thought me bold, 'm, you 
know I was well intentioned, and only spoke 
because I could not abear to see you fretting 
and harrying yourself worse than any servant 
on wages and board-wages, and getting no 
thanks back. That's why I am glad, indeed, 
you have come across Miss Weir, 'm, as 
you think she's likely to suit you, ma'am ; 
and all I hope is, you may never have cause 
to repent your goodness to her." 

" Repent ! What should I repent for ?" 
" I don't know, 'm, I'm sure. It's not for 
a desolate widow — slaving early and late to 
keep a bed under her, and without a friend 
in the world, so to speak, 'm, but yourself — 
to put herself in the place of a lady who is 
married and has little dears of children and a 
house choke-full of beautiful furniture and 



204 MITRE COURT. 



good paying lodgers ; but I can't help saying, 
if — poor though I am — I had a husband, or 
lodger, or children, Miss Abigail shouldn't 
have a chance of speaking a word, good or 
bad, to one of them." 

"Whatever is wronof with the q;iy\ ?" asked 
Mrs. Jeffley testily. "She is always neat, 
and pleasant, and well-spoken, and in- 
dustrious. She is not much to look at, to be- 
sure — — " 

" That she is not," agreed Mrs. Childs. 

" But handsome is as handsome does, you 
know ; and I really can't help thinking if she 
is not pretty she is good." 

"You ought to know best, 'm," answered 
Mrs. Childs. 

"That is just what I am not so sure of. 
As you remark, I have a husband and 
children and lodgers ; and if there is any- 
thing against Miss Weir, I ought to know it." 

Mrs. Childs stood resolutely silent, with 
eyes cast down and lips compressed. 

" Come," urged Mrs. Jeffley persuasively, 
"what is it? You need not be afraid of 
speaking to me. I am as safe as the grave." 

Perhaps Mrs. Childs had her doubts about 



MRS. CHILD S' THEORY 



the safety of that last resort. At all events, 
she refused to explain. 

"Excuse me, 'm," she replied, "but I'd 
rather say no more. There are things in 
most houses — all houses aren't open and 
aboveboard like yours — that shouldn't be 
spoke about. Whether a person is taken 
into confidence or kept at arm's length, that 
person, unless she is blind, deaf, and a born 
idiot, can't help seeing, hearing, and trying 
to fit into place — but it is her business to say 
nothing, once the door is shut behind her ; 
and nobody living could repeat any remark 
I ever made about Mr. Brisco, or Mr. 
Brisco's place, or the child Mr. Brisco took 
in, I'd care came round to him to-mor- 
row. 

Mrs. Jeffley sat perplexed. Mrs. Childs' 
assertion puzzled her as much as that trick 
about the lemonade and the queen-cake 
puzzled the cheated old shopkeeper : 

" Give me a bottle of lemonade," said the 
customer. 

When his wish was complied with, he 
altered his mind. " No, I will not have the 
lemonade, but this queen-cake." 



2o6 MITRE COURT. 



Having eaten the queen-cake, he prepared 
to depart. 

"Twopence, if you please, sir." 

"What for?" 

" The queen-cake." 

"But I gave you the lemonade for the 
queen-cake." 

" But you did not pay for the lemonade!" 

" No, I had not the lemonade," and left 
the woman unpaid — feeling she had lost 
twopence somehow, though she could not tell 
in what way. 

In like manner, it would have required a 
clear head to disentangle Mr. Brisco from 
Miss Weir in Mrs. Childs' muddled sentences, 
and, after that was effected, to state the 
precise sin charged — beyond general pertness 
• — by that worthy woman to Miss Abigail's 
account. In some ways Mrs. Jeffley's was 
anything but a clear head. There were 
matters about which a child could have led 
her astray. Utterly guileless herself, each 
fresh revelation of want of straightforwardness 
in others came upon her with a terrible 
surprise. 

The possibility of there being two sides to 



MRS, CHILD S' THEORY. 207 

a question or a human being never occurred 
to her. She always believed the first story 
she heard, let it be told by whom it might 
(her husband excepted). She invariably sided 
with the plaintiff, and even if forced ultimately 
to recognise that the defendant's tale might 
be true, recognised such fact under protest. 

Under Mrs. Childs' manipulation such a 
woman was as clay in the hands of the potter. 

The very vagueness of the sin ascribed to 
Miss Weir added to its awfulness ; the lurid 
light merely thrown on what might have been 
going on in the old house, and then in- 
stantly withdrawn, heightened the horror and 
picturesqueness of Mrs. Childs' suggested 
drama ! On the other hand, Miss Weir, even 
if she were the Evil One in female form, did 
her work well and cheaply. 

What possible contamination could she 
bring into Fowkes' Buildings? Certainly 
then and there Mrs. Jeffley abandoned the 
plan she had half formed of asking Abigail to 
go to Margate with her, that they might get 
to know each other better ; still she could 
not — she felt it impossible — altogether sever 
connection with a girl able to shop, cut out, 



208 MITRE COURT. 

and sew, and " take a burden off her 
mind." 

" But, Mrs. Childs," she remonstrated, after 
she had allowed all these considerations to 
tumble for a while through her brain, " it 
is years since you worked for Mr. Brisco, and 
whatever the child may have been then, she 
seems to have no bad ways now. Of course 
I am not in a position to tell, but it does 
seem to me, from all I have heard, Mr. 
Brisco would never have kept her all this 
time had she not forsaken whatever evil 
courses she may have got into long ago. 
Besides, what chance had she then, poor 
child, taught no better ? Now she is a credit 
to the Q-ood education those ladies gave her. 
Where would you meet a quieter girl in 
the streets, or a nicer-mannered one in- 
doors ?" 

" I have nothing to say against what Miss 
Weir seems to be, 'm, but I know what I 
know ; and having warned you, 'm, I've done 
my duty, and feel I'll sleep all the peacefuller 
to-night for having so done. After the 
kindness you have shown to me — for which I 
feel humbly grateful — I could not say less, 



MRS. CHILD S' THEORY. 209 



but I'd rather, if you please, say no more ; 
only " 

" Only " repeated Mrs. Jeffley. " You 

know it's safe with me, whatever it may 
be." 

" I know that, 'm, but still — however, all I 
was going to remark had to do with nobody 
but Mr. Brisco himself. Perhaps there is 
not so much credit in his keeping her as you 
think, to either of them." 

"Good gracious, Mrs. Childs, what are 
you insinuating ?" 

" It's not me, it's others : tongues can't be 
chained nor bound, neither tied, and there 
has been a deal of talk, first and last, about 
the 'young lady' in Botolph Lane and her 
' benefactor.' Put it to yourself, ma'am. 
Now shouldn't you think it strange if some 
people who were so badly off they couldn't 
afford a bottle of stout, and so hard they 
wouldn't have thrown a starved dog a mouldy 
crust, turned all in a minute, and without 
rhyme or reason took in a ragged child, her 
eyes starting out of her head with hunger — 
sick and famished — and that, when she'd 
have been well seen to by the parish ?" 

vol. 1. 14 



MITRE COURT. 



" I have always thought it odd," said 
Mrs. Jeffley, her eyes wide with eagerness as 
Abigail's had once been with hunger, " but I 
don't see " 

" No, 'm, I know you don't — how should 
you ? but there were those as said at the time, 
strange as it was, perhaps there were good 
reasons. If some people had been paying 
money for the child, and couldn't or wouldn't 
keep up the weekly instalments — and those 
who had her chose that way of shaming 
them — mightn't those people have found it 
cheaper and quieter to keep the child in the 
old house than to let her go, and have a fuss 
made, and so get into further trouble ? I am 
putting it to you, 'm, as it was put to me by 
a party used to the law courts and acquainted 
with all sorts of wickedness. Don't you 
think if all the ins and outs were made plain, 
and the whole matter revealed as it will be 
at the Great Day of Judgment, we might not 
think it so strange after all ?" 

" I would rather not think," answered Mrs. 
Jeffley, greatly shocked. " Take away the 
tray, please, Mrs. Childs. I couldn't touch 
anything more ; you have made me feel quite 



MRS. CHILD S' THEORY. 



faint. I wish I had heard nothing about the 
matter at all." 

"Well, 'm, you would have it, you know," 
returned Mrs. Childs, in a tone of chastened 
superiority. ''With my goodwill you would 
never have heard a word of the story. I am 
truly sorry to have upset you, but it was 
not my doing. It would be my heartfelt 
endeavour to say no ill of anybody." 

And all the while it never occurred to Mrs. 
Jeffley that no mention had been made of the 
nature of the particular crime imputed to 
Abigail Weir. Talk of songs without words ! 
Pooh ! Rather talk of slanders without 
syllable ! 




14- 




CHAPTER XL 



G. BRISCO. 



AD Heaven been pleased to place 
a Mrs. Childs a little higher in the 
Q&M) social scale, it is not improbable 
that she might have compassed distinction as 
a story-writer. 

Two qualifications at least she possessed, 
not always to be found in those who now- 
adays profess to supply a public want — an 
imagination ardent yet pliable, which enabled 
her to describe events which never occurred, 
and a calm power of vivid description that 
rendered scepticism as regarded her narra- 
tives difficult. The implied secret in Mr. 
Brisco's past, as well as the reported conver 
sations concerning it, were wholly and totally 
the unassisted productions of her own fertile 



G. BRISCO. 213 

brain. With her fancy stimulated by the 
sight of Miss Weir, before she reached 
Crooked Lane she had rough-hewn the false- 
hood ; ere St. Mary-at-Hill was passed on 
her way back, she had moulded and shaped 
the ugly scandal into likely form ; and the 
time consumed in covering the ground 
between St. Dunstan's Hill and Fowkes' 
Buildings sufficed to give her own thoughts 
words, uttered by the supposititious lips ot 
some fanciful individual. 

" I make no doubt it's all true enough," 
she said, in that silent soliloquy she so much 
affected. " Who is Mr. Brisco more than 
anybody else, that Missy shouldn't be his 
child ? If she is not, she ought to be. It is 
more fit he should be her father than any 
other person." 

Which was all really very hard on Mr. 
Brisco, a man not merely innocent of the 
charge implied against him, but a man 
against whom it seemed inconceivable such a 
charge could have been implied. 

For indeed the world of his mind had 
never been large enough to contain more 
than two women — his mother and his wife, 



214 MITRE COURT. 



and both were dead. Even in thought 
he had always been loyal. He would not 
have turned his head to look at Venus, had 
that probably overrated beauty taken a fancy 
to walk among the stockbrokers in Throg- 
morton Street about one o'clock on a busy 
day ; and as for the rest of the female 
mythology, his virtue was of that Spartan 
character which could contemplate the spec- 
tacle of mature goddesses whipped at the 
cart's tail, and any number of frisky young 
nymphs packed off to Bridewell, with equa- 
nimity. 

A lonely man, a lonely self-contained 
brooding man, solitary as it is only possible 
to be in the heart of a great city. There 
anyone who lists may fashion a hermitage for 
himself. No need nowadays to fly human 
haunts, yearn for a lodge in some vast wilder- 
ness, a forest hut, a rocky cave, mossy banks, 
purling streams, and such roots and herbs as 
may be indigenous to the particular locality 
selected for penance or meditation. 

The meanest house in London will serve 
all purposes of seclusion just as well. If any 
anchorite, or sybarite either for that matter, 



G. BRISCO. 215 

choose to close his door against the world, he 
may sit at ease and hear the great billows of 
struggling humanity rolling majestically, cry- 
ing pitifully, beating madly upon the pave- 
ments, sobbing through the night ; but not 
one wave shall creep into the dwelling of him 
who has voluntarily cast off his kind. Utter 
isolation can, amongst many other luxuries, 
be commanded by one who pays his way. 
He will not be meddled with. He may buy 
his roots and herbs in the nearest market. 
He may live more miserably than any hermit 
of old in his cell ; surrounded by a multitude, 
he can hold himself aloof from contact with 
them. It is competent for him to exist for 
himself, and absolutely by himself. 

The country affords no such freedom as 
the city ; a wide desert — no solitude equal to 
streets and lanes crowded with busy, anxious 
people. Even should the hermit's beard be 
long, and his flowing locks grey, his appear- 
ance strange, and his gestures uncouth, 
passers-by will soon cease to wonder, and the 
very arabs turning wheels in the roadway, or 
sparring with each other in the gutter, refuse 
to interrupt their employment for the sake of 



216 MITRE COURT. 



shouting, " Here's another guy !" after one 
whose features and figure have become 
familiar. 

It had chanced thus with Mr. Brisco. 
When first he entered into full possession of 
the old house in Botolph Lane, where pre- 
viously he had merely rented an office, 
speculation was rife concerning him ; but 
that had been all done with for many a year. 
Curiosity was over-past ; chilled and mor- 
tified, it decided Mr. Brisco must be sour 
grapes, and ceased to jump for the bunches. 
The nine days' wonder induced by the* 
advent of little Miss Weir — " a mere bag 
of bones and bundle of rags " — had for 
years been spent ; likewise the astonishment 
caused by Mrs. Childs' discharge or defec- 
tion (the neighbouring population took sides 
as to which word was correct) was almost 
forgotten. That portion of the ward of 
Billingsgate bounded on the east by Dun- 
stan's Hill and west by Pudding Lane 
exercised its minds no more about the old 
house and its tenants. Miss Weir was as 
nice a tenant as house need have ; bright 
and busy, she pursued her cheerful way, ever 



G. BRISCO. 217 

willing to help, ever ready to rejoice with 
those who were glad, and mourn with those 
who mourned. 

" She's like a glint of sunshine," said one, 
athwart whose path sunshine fell rarely. 

" I'll never forget her when my little Bess 
died," murmured his neighbour. 

She did what she could ; and, after all, 
what can a queen do more ? In great con- 
servatories we see stately camellias and the 
royal amaryllis and fragrant stephanotis and 
exotics trembling with the very excess of 
their fragile beauty, and then there stands 
on the sill of some narrow window a plant, 
modest, and to outward view of little worth, 
which yet fills the poor room with perfume, 
and talks in an inarticulate language, intel- 
ligible enough to those hearts for which the 
message is sent, of something even in this 
world exceedingly to be desired : hope and 
content amid the most lowly surroundings ; 
peace to be compassed, spite of the madden- 
ing turmoil of constant work and hard en- 
deavour. 

To Abigail Weir it was not given to carry 
any message to those of high estate. The 



MITRE COURT. 



old house in Botolph Lane was the grandest 
mansion she had, in her short life, entered ; 
the drawing-room at the Rectory the only 
even ordinarily well-furnished apartment her 
young eyes ever beheld. But what of 
that ? 

In a king's palace she had not been one 
half so useful ; every energy she possessed 
was always on active service. She had no 
leisure to repine. If evil moods fell upon her 
■ — -and what sort of nature can it be the black 
dog never visits ?■ — she found time too short 
to permit of fondling the mischievous guest. 
She did what she could, and appreciative 
neighbours recognised the fact, and silently 
applauded a courage which never seemed to 
falter, industry that was well-nigh tireless. 

Had she been born in the parish, no one 
could have felt more inclined to make her 
free of it than did all the old inhabitants 
sprinkled up and down the lanes. As for 
Mr. Brisco, the mystery, if there were a 
mystery connected with him, had long ceased 
to exercise any mind, or strain the capacities 
of any brain. When Mr. Katzen was ap- 
pointed consul for New Andalusia. Botolph 



G. BRISCO. 219 



Lane and Love Lane and St. Mary-at-Hill 
knew as little about that gentleman's land- 
lord as it had done years previously. 

And not a soul in the length and breadth 
of London appeared to be much wiser. 

He might have dropped from the clouds, 
for any trace his footprints had left on earth. 
He might have been his own father, and 
grandfather, sister, brother, uncle, and aunt, 
for all mention he ever made of relatives, 
dead or living. Where he came from, what 
was his past history, how it chanced he lived 
poor, stranded, and friendless, were questions 
many persons had once tried to ask, but which 
they asked no longer. 

Between himself and the world there stood 
a wall no one could even peep over. Not a 
glimpse was to be obtained of the private 
grounds in which he walked mentally ; ex- 
cept Abigail Weir and her friend Frank 
Scott, not a creature suspected the fact of 
those frequent night-wanderings, when, hand 
in hand with the dead, he roamed through 
the ghostly silence, invoking shadows from 
out his past, and seeking communion with 
fancies that had vanished with youth, and 



MITRE COURT. 



with those whose bodies had for long years 
known no companionship save darkness and 
the earthworm. Constantly we see this 
tendency to revert to some former state of 
unreal and ideal happiness in lieu of welcom- 
ing the sunshine or the shadow of each day 
God gives us as it comes ; to lay wreaths on 
the wet ground to gladden eyes now closed 
on earth, though gazing, so we humbly hope, 
on the fadeless flowers of Paradise, instead of 
planting in the midst of our most desperate 
affliction slips of hope and roots of endeavour, 
which even in this world may bloom and 
bear fruit, that some one at least, if not we 
ourselves, worn and weary, hungry and athirst, 
may stop and gather. 

All his life Mr. Brisco had been unfor- 
tunate. Over his cradle two evil spirits kept 
guard — poverty and pride ; poverty that was 
grim, pride that would have been ludicrous 
but for the cruel penury amid which it con- 
trived to flourish. 

Brisco senior, an over-worked and badly 
paid medical practitioner in a remote country 
district, was the younger son of a younger 
son, who in his turn was the descendant of 



G. BRISCO. 221 

Heaven only knows how many younger sons, 
one of whom may, at some extraordinarily 
remote period, have been actually the younger 
son of the head of a great family. 

The Heralds' College might have disen- 
tangled without snapping this long-drawn 
chain of asserted relationship ; but the great 
family, many a generation before Mr. Brisco 
was born, had ceased to see it. To them, 
indeed, it was actually invisible ; and as there 
were scattered about the world hundreds of 
heirs concerning whose bona fides there could 
be no question, it seemed in the highest 
degree improbable the rusted links could 
ever again become distinct. 

To Doctor Brisco, however, his connection 
with the great family was plain as a pikestaff. 
Unhappily, pedigree is one of those objects 
from which the further a man stands the 
more clear becomes his vision. Sons, elder 
sons of elder sons, may sometimes forget 
the traditions of their house, and the position 
conferred upon them by birth, but the far-off 
relation never omits to bore his acquaintances 
with the tale of those he can claim " Sib" 
with ; ay, even if it be over his cups in a 



222 MITRE COURT. 



village "pub" where there is a long score 
against him, he will give himself airs on the 
strength of some kinsman or kinswoman 
dead and gone, long turned to dust, who 
made a mesalliance of which he is the notable 
representative. 

Doctor Brisco, as he was called, though 
indeed he had no right to such a prefix, did 
not go about the world buttonholing every- 
one he met, while he confided to them the 
secret that he came of those whose names 
were writ in history ; nevertheless it was by 
some means generally understood if he "had 
his rights" he would be rolling alono- the 
high road in a carriage, instead of tramping 
through life's muddy lanes on foot. 

In his shabby surgery there hung a 
genealogical tree, root, trunk and branches 
of which were there for all who listed to look 
at, and marvel concerning ; indeed, it was a 
fearful and wonderful work of art. Likewise 
in the best parlour there was to be beheld, 
effectively framed, the coat-of-arms and crest 
of the Briscos, who had intermarried with 
the Granthams, a.d. 1578. Two Miss 
Granthams, co-heiresses, allied themselves 



G. BRISCO. 



with two Briscos. The one Brisco, being 
wise, did well in consequence of his wife's 
money ; the other, being foolish, squandered 
the other sister's share in whatever amuse- 
ments were going on about that period of 
England's history. 

Further, those same dreary walls were 
adorned with plates — extracted probably 
from some forgotten annual — representing 
the lordly seats of the two remarkable 
families ; in both cases plenty of park, 
plenty of deer, of trees, masonry, shrubs- — 
everything as it should be about such abodes. 

The Doctor, though no humbug, was 
wont to sigh when anyone surveyed these 
drawings. 

At such times he honestly felt as though 
the scenes depicted represented the happy 
playgrounds of his youth. In those great 
houses not a soul knew that such a person as 
himself existed ; but he never forgot his 
notable kinsfolk. 

Did they marry, did they die, did they 
repair abroad ; did they meet with an 
accident at home, get into any trouble, 
matrimonial or otherwise ; return to their 



224 MITRE COURT. 

ancestral halls — Doctor Brisco was mentally 
in attendance. 

To follow their movements, to read of 
their alliances, to identify himself with their 
joys and sorrows, disappointments and suc- 
cesses, was almost the sole amusement of a 
dull, laborious life. 

It was like a child's game of make-believe. 
He knew it meant nothing, could never 
mean anything to him, yet out of the doings 
of his relatives he erected air-castles by the 
hundred, and was wont to say, " Ah ! if good 
never comes to me, it will some day to my 
children." 

His greatest trouble really seemed to be 
that not one of his sons took after him, unless 
indeed Grantham. When quite an infant 
Grantham had been wont to regard the 
family tree with fixed attention, and as he 
grew up he developed a remarkable pre- 
dilection for reading about the great deeds 
achieved in times past by the men of his 
house. 

" You'll have to make money, boy," said 
his father, "and then they will hold out the 
right hand of fellowship fast enough. Make 



G. BRISCO. 225 

money — that is the only way the chivalry of 
the nineteenth century can show itself. In 
former days, when a young fellow wanted to 
get to the front, he had but to perform some 
deed of valour ; now he must work twice as 
hard for years to fill his pockets. When he 
has filled them, the ball is at his feet. It is 
of no use being a Grantham, or a Brisco, or 
anybody else, if you have not money to keep 
up the name. Look at me ; there is not a 
man in the parish as well born as I am ; and 
yet every new-fledged cotton lord, even if he 
drops his h's and eats with his knife, thinks 
he patronizes Ralph Brisco when he asks me 
to dinner. Patronizes me! Ha! ha! ha! 
it is really too good !" Yet the poor fellow- 
did not seem to find the idea really pro- 
vocative of mirth, for his lauQfh lacked the 
true rinof a laueh should have. On the 
contrary, it savoured of mortification. 

As for Grantham, at a very early age 
bitterness had entered into his soul and 
remained there. At school, at play, in his 
father's house, and out of it, the curse ol 
poverty lay heavy upon him. There are 
burdens which do not grow lighter with the 

vol. 1. 1 s 



126 MITRE COURT. 



lapse of time, and shortness of money is one 
of them. No estates, no legacies, no gifts, 
came to that narrow village home. The 
world went on, and it was hard to make a 
sovereign go as far as formerly. Neither the 
Briscos nor the Granthams evinced any wild 
desire to take their relations to the family 
bosom. They married, they were given in 
marriage, they died and were buried ; at last, 
it was all the same to their far-away kinsman. 
After long years of as gallant a fight as ever 
one of his ancestors made in battle on sea or 
land, the poor Doctor was stricken with 
paralysis, and he might have died in the 
workhouse, or starved, had it not been for 
Grantham, who was then in London seeking 
-his fortune. 

The elder brothers were dead or vanished 
— there never were any sisters ; so on 
Grantham devolved the duty of doing what 
he could for both his parents. 

In a humble way he managed to support 
them ; but when at last he stood sole mourner 
beside his mother's grave, the fortune he had 
come to London to seek seemed as far off as 
ever. 



G. BRISCO. 227 

He had the sense to lock away his 
genealogical tree, and hold his tongue con- 
cerning relations stranger to him than any 
strangers ; but a man cannot lock up memory 
or ensure forgetfulness even by maintaining 
silence, and that which had grown with the 
young man's growth, and was as truly a part 
of him as his keen cold blue eyes, was not 
likely to be exorcised by a long course of 
loneliness and abstinence from every innocent 
pleasure. 

It was ere he had scarce recovered from 
the blow inflicted by his mother's death that 
he met the love of his life. 

" And a bad day as ever broke it was for 
her, poor darling," often declared the poor 
darling's nurse, as garrulous as she who 
taught Juliet to walk. " Little I thought, 
when I first saw him come into the house, 
where master had been so silly as to ask 
him to dine, what was to come of it. If I 
had, I'd have soaped the stairs, or put poison 
in his wine. There's no accounting for 
tastes — he wouldn't have been mine." 

There is nothing more easy than to be 
wise after the event. Had anvone known 



228 MITRE COURT. 



what was going to happen, probably Miss 
Daynes might never have become Mrs. 
Brisco. Certainly Grantham Brisco would 
have hesitated about asking her to marry 
him. 

Old Mr. Daynes was a gentleman living 
not merely up to the edge of his income, but 
beyond. He had sons who looked for 
allowances from him ; daughters married to 
professional men struggling to keep up a 
position ; daughters unmarried he could not 
afford to portion. Apparently he had a good 
business, but it was rotten through and 
through — so rotten indeed that if Mr. Daynes 
had not died in the very nick of time, he 
must have been bankrupt. 

Within a fortnight after the funeral, and 
before the whole of the mourning gar- 
ments ordered had been sent home, the 
Daynes' card-house tumbled down about their 
ears. 

The creditors took the life insurances — 
upon which advances had been made — the 
furniture, the brougham, the horse and har- 
ness, the lease of the desirable suburban 
villa — see advertisements of the period — the 



G. BRISCO. 229 

book-debts — everything, in fact, that was left 
to take. 

Mrs. Daynes went to live with one of her 
married daughters, who did not in the least 
want her ; the sons had to shift as they 
could. One of the Miss Daynes took a 
situation as governess ; the other was glad 
to meet with an old lady who wanted a com- 
panion. 

"It is a comfort Faith is so well provided 
for," said Mrs. Daynes. 

" I suppose you are not aware," observed 
the son-in-law she addressed, who was a 
solicitor, " that Brisco had gone security for 
your husband to an amount that will keep 
him with his nose to the grindstone for many 
a long day ?" 

It was true. Dear Faith's husband had 
" signed his name as a mere matter of form ;" 
and if ever a man found cause to curse the 
day when he learned to write, that man was 
Grantham Brisco. 

What was the poverty of his youth in 
comparison with the poverty of his man- 
hood ? What is any poverty in the country 
like the poverty of town ? 



230 MITRE COURT. 



He had always lived frugally — sometimes 
barely — but now he felt bound to stint him- 
self even of the necessaries of life. Left to 
the guidance of her own soft impulses, his 
wife would have been a sweet, submissive, 
useless creature. Sweet she was always, 
even in her tears — a woman to caress, and 
kiss, and keep far as possible from all know- 
ledge of hardship. Not even the old nurse, 
who loved her beyond all things except her- 
self, could spoil a nature naturally unselfish ; 
but in such a crisis of a man's life as that at 
which Grantham Brisco had arrived, he needs 
something more than sweetness — he wants 
help. 

He was strong enough morally and 
physically to eat no food save a penny roll 
during business hours, and return to a meal 
consisting of weak tea, a stale egg, bread 
and cheap butter, at night ; but on such fare 
he might be excused for sometimes cavilling 
over the weekly bills, and, when his own per- 
sonal expenditure is well-nigh nil, grumbling 
because the household accounts seemed to 
him excessive. 

Abroad he had no ease ; at home he had 



G. £ J? I SCO. 



no peace. That accursed security dragged 
away his very life's blood, and yet he could 
not bear to tell his wife it had been incurred 
for her father. He dreaded to go home 
after a day's hard work, because upon the 
threshold he was met by something which 
seemed to him even more accursed than the 
paper to which he had affixed his name — 
the old nurse upon whose lips there was 
always a demand for money, and who finally 
went so far as to say " he ought to be 
ashamed of himself." 

In the hands of women a man is absolutely 
helpless — unless he is a bad man, in which 
case the tables are turned. 

Mr. Brisco was not a bad man. His fault, 
if it could be accounted a fault, was absolute 
honesty. He had incurred a liability, and he 
meant to pay it. 

Bankruptcy would of course have left him 
almost free to commence the world again ; 
but though he had locked the family pedi- 
gree away, it was there for all that. 

He could not find it in his heart to drag 
two ancient names — Grantham, Brisco — 
through the mire of Basinghall Street for 



MITRE COURT. 



any Daynes in England ; bravely, therefore, 
he set out to pay the liability for which he 
was responsible. 

It was hard, he felt — very, very hard. 
Often he cursed the memory of soft-talking, 
soft-living Mr. Daynes ; but cursing could 
not pay off the debt incurred. 

Mr. Daynes' creditors were not indulgent. 
They would have been lenient to that plea- 
sant gentleman had he lived ; but Mr. Brisco 
was a horse of quite another colour — -a horse 
willing to work, willing to slave. Such a 
horse is always safe to lash, so they lashed 
him. 

In life there must be ever those who play 
and those who work; Mr. Brisco was amongst 
those forced to work. 

All the best years of his life were spent in 
a struggle with poverty, worse by far than 
his father had ever waged : not an instinct 
of his nature but was crushed down by the 
iron heel of necessity. Morning, noon, and 
night he worked to pay off that Shylock 
bond contracted for no extravagance or ne- 
cessity of his own. How he worked no one 
save God and himself might ever know. 



G. BRISCO. 233 

The humiliations he went through, the 
personal privations he accepted, the heat 
and burden of that awful day, must be 
written somewhere, though not on earth. 

Doggedly men go through this sort of 
punishment constantly, Fate flogging them 
till they almost cease to feel the whip. 
Eventually Mr. Brisco ceased to feel it — 
he grew accustomed to being trampled on ; 
lawyers' letters were no more a terror. " If 
you live long enough in hell," he said one 
day to a solicitor, "you must get acclimatized 
to brimstone and sulphur." 

Through all this time he had been going 
down — down — down — till the Daynes, who 
never paid anybody, and in some extra- 
ordinary way shuffled off all responsibilities, 
felt it impossible any longer to recognise 
poor Faith's husband. 

When Mrs. Brisco's child was born, she 
and Mr. Brisco had moved so far east as 
Lower Clapton ; after that their address was 
Homerton. 

Nobody, however, called at Homerton— 
no one, indeed, knew where Homerton was, 
for which reason the young wife and her 



234 MITRE COURT. 



little boy were left alone to comfort each 
other. 

After a while the young wife fell ill, not 
with any pronounced disease, but of a sort 
of " languor." 

Madly the husband did for her all that 
lay in his power. He ran in debt to trades- 
people ; he borrowed money ; he stinted him- 
self more and more ; he worked harder than 
ever. 

" My darling," he said one morning, " I 
am in such hopes of getting a paying agency. 
This evening I trust I shall have oood news 
for you." 

For answer, she meekly lifted a white face 
for him to kiss. 

" Dearest, " he murmured, " we must get 
you into the country and coax back the rose- 
tints." 

" Kiss me again, love," she answered, in a 
stronger voice than he had heard for weeks. 
" Now go — good-bye!" 

He went — elastic, hopeful, full of plans. 
He returned, having secured the agency. It 
was summer-time, and he looked up at the 
windows, hoping she might be lying on the 



G. BRISCO. 235 

sofa looking for him. All the blinds were 
clown, yet the house did not front the west. 

He put his key in the lock, and, with a 
strange sort of hesitation, opened the door. 

A woman he had never before seen came 
forward. 

" If you please, sir," she asked, "are you 
Mr. Brisco ?" 

" Yes — yes," he said breathlessly. 

" I am sorry to tell you, sir, your poor wife 
is gone. She went quite peacefully at four 
o'clock. Lord save us !" she added in quite 
a different tone, for Mr. Brisco had dropped 
like one dead on the floor. 





CHAPTER XII. 



MOST LONELY. 




RIEF does not kill. If it did, there 
are few who would outlive their 
£fe«m first youth. 

Trouble traces wrinkles on the heart, but 
fails to stop its beating. Our capacity for 
happiness is limited ; our capacity for sorrow 
boundless. Sometimes we may well pause 
to ask ourselves how humanity can bear the 
burdens laid upon it — how it is possible to 
endure the anguish and the agony which 
may be comprised in twenty-four hours of 
existence, and still remain outwardly un- 
changed. 

Grief did not kill Grantham Brisco ; though 
for a while he lay on the sofa, to which kindly 
neighbours carried him, like one bereft of 



MOST LONELY. 



sense and feeling, he arose ere long, and 
again faced life, which could never for ever 
seem the same to him. 

He had been married for over seven years 
when his wife died. The time was not so 
very long, yet it had sufficed to work many 
changes. All the Daynes were scattered. 
Mrs. Daynes was gone to a world where 
it is to be hoped she found a warmer wel- 
come than in her daughter's house. That 
daughter's husband had been struck off the 
rolls. There are families the members of 
which ally themselves as surely with poverty 
or disgrace as the sparks fly upward. 

Not a man or woman of her own blood 
stood beside Faith Brisco's grave. There 
were but two mourners — her husband and her 
nurse. They faced each other in the sombre 
coach, and exchanged no word either on the 
way to or from the churchyard. As the earth 
rattled on the coffin-lid, Mr. Brisco could 
have shrieked aloud, but he made no out- 
ward sign. A brave man bound to the stake 
would have so comported himself. The ordeal 
had to be gone through — that was enough. 
Poor husband — poor young wife ! they might 



238 MITRE COURT. 

have been happy here, perhaps ; but God 
knows best. 

She was gone, and again the world lay 
open before Grantham Brisco, to make what 
he could out of. 

He did not make much of the chance 
offered. Perhaps that was scarcely his fault, 
for a man handicapped with an old servant 
and a young child can scarcely, even if 
he be rich, map out a quite independent 
future. 

He was aware his servant entertained a 
prejudice against himself, as well as in favour 
of extravagance ; but she had been fond of 
his wife, and loved the little boy ; so he kept 
her on. What better, indeed, could he have 
done ? 

The old struggle with poverty had still to 
be waofed — debts had accumulated with that 
fatal rapidity which seems in the very nature 
of debt ; the agency did not pay as he ex- 
pected it to do : perhaps only half his heart 
was in the matter. He made a couple of 
bad sales, and his principals became dissatis- 
fied. He was ill in body as well as mind, 
though he did not know it. The horror of 



MOST LONELY. 239 



sleeplessness was laid upon him like a curse ; 
and because he could not endure the silence 
and loneliness of the night-watches, he began 
those weary wanderings of which the old 
house in Botolph Lane could have told so 
many a tale. Pie did not roam about the 
narrow rooms at Homerton. After the nurse 
and child were at rest, he was wont to pass 
out into the darkness, and walk for hours 
across Hackney Marshes, sometimes striking 
the Newmarket Road, or skirting Rockholts, 
making his way along Green Grove Lane to 
the Lower Forest. 

There was scarcely an inch of all that then 
almost undiscovered country unknown to him. 
He miorht have been seen striding - on the 
banks of the Lea, where the heights of Upper 
Clapton and the coldly gliding river showed 
clear as day in a flood of moonlight ; but his 
general goal was Epping. Along the green 
alleys, beside which giant trees kept guard — 
their interlacing branches forming a fitted 
canopy, not close enough to hide the stars 
shining down upon the flitting figure of one 
most wretched — he paced. She had been all 
the world to him, he often cried aloud in his 



24o MITRE COURT. 



solitary anguish — all the world ; and she was 
Sfone. 

" What shall I do — what shall I do ?" he 
was wont despairingly to ask the solemn 
silence, and for answer there came back to 
him only the rustle of the leaves or the jar 
of some night-bird. 

It is a true saying that "grief is like 
shame, just as we take it." 

Mr. Brisco took his very badly indeed. 
Which amongst us who has suffered but 
knows from experience that over the grave 
of any sorrow grass will of itself spring in 
time, but it does not lie with us to hurry the 
process. Nature knows all about it better 
than we do. The seed of fresh hope is 
within each one of us, and if we only let it 
alone, after many days green shoots which 
have been watered with our tears, and 
nourished with the very anguish of our souls, 
will appear to refresh and beautify our deso- 
lation. We may not hasten the coming of 
those tender blades, but we can prevent their 
appearing altogether — we may in our passion 
root them up, so that across the narrow rest- 
ing-places of sorrow or of sin no grass of 



MOST LONELY. 241 



grace may wave, no tender bud of promise 
bloom for ever. This was how Mr. Brisco 
treated his grief — he tried to trample it under 
foot, and failed. He had made to himself an 
idol, and, when it was cast down, the very- 
blackness of despair settled upon his soul. 

And the blow dealt was hard — who dare 
deny it ? 

It would have been a hard stroke to any 
man who had loved his wife ; but it was un- 
utterably hard to Grantham Brisco. To him 
she was the whole of existence ; during years, 
every thought, every effort, every sacrifice 
had been for her. And now it was all ended 
— with a full-stop death had rounded off a 
sentence which seemed to the unhappy hus- 
band but just begun — and he was forced to 
take up the sheaves of his life again, with 
the grain eaten out of every ear of corn they 
contained. The world is kindly enough, 
though, maybe, it does not take the interest 
in, and feel the veneration for, a great sorrow 
in those of low estate, that it does when the 
bereaved individual chances to have every- 
thing the heart can desire save one ewe lamb 
— one among a herd of blessings ; and Mr. 

vol. 1. 16 



242 MITRE COURT. 



Brisco knowing this, and being, moreover, 
blessed or cursed with a somewhat cynical 
nature which neither asked nor desired sym- 
pathy, elected to make no moan about his loss, 
determined the memory of his wife should be 
associated with nothing common or unclean. 

When acquaintances would have uttered 
ordinary words of condolence, he stopped 
them short. His grief was — not between 
God and himself, for he left God out of it 
altogether, save in a spirit of rebellion and 
bitterness — but between himself and the 
dead. She was gone — for him there re- 
mained nothing save to make such a best 
of the remainder of life as seemed possible. 

There were a few who, moved by a feeling 
of pity, held out the right hand of fellow- 
ship ; but Mr. Brisco showed by such un- 
mistakable signs that he preferred his own 
society to the best they could offer, that at 
last he was left absolutely alone. He dropped 
out of companionship with his kind utterly. 
Had he been dead, he could not have owned 
less in common with other men. 

Abroad, as at home, in business and out 
of it, he was one of the most ungenial of 



MOST LONELY. 243 



created beings. In no office did he ever stop 
to chat ; he transacted whatever business he 
chanced to have in hand, and then went his 
way. Even the weather failed to interest 
him. He did not seem to care whether it 
were hot or cold, snow or sunshine ; but 
whether he did or not, he had no remarks 
to offer on the subject, and he listened to the 
remarks of other persons with ill-concealed 
impatience. 

" He never even ' makes ' of his son as any 
other father would," grumbled that son's 
nurse ; and this was quite true. 

For a long time even the sight of the boy 
was agony to him. When the child laughed, 
he turned his head away ; when he played 
and shouted, he could have stopped his ears. 
The joyousness of youth grated on the man's 
nerves like a lively tune heard in a house of 
mourning. Nevertheless, his heart was all 
unconsciously putting out little rootlets which 
had for nourishment the lad's future. As the 
poor overworked, underpaid doctor reared air- 
castles for his son, so Grantham Brisco began 
to dream of greatness for the child of his dead 
wife. 

16 — 2 



J44 MITRE COURT. 



Never for an instant was she forgotten. 
Everything he did, everything he thought, 
was done and thought with reference to one 
whom no earthly action could pleasure or 
sadden. The scanty food, the pinching per- 
sonal economy that had once seemed petty 
trials, now proved some sort of comfort to 
the widower. If she had lacked much, it 
was a bitter solace to feel he denied himself 
even the few luxuries in which he nwht have 
indulged. Rich viands, rare wines, even had 
they been at his command, would, remember- 
ing the bare poverty of their married life, 
have choked him. If he could have felt 
happy, he would have hated to be so. Had 
he noted a single shoot of hope appearing 
on the tree of his existence, he would have 
destroyed it ruthlessly. A strange, sad, 
lonely, wrecked man, wrecked unintelligibly 
to the understanding of most outsiders. 

His boy was more than eight years old 
when Mr. Brisco awakened one day to the 
fact that he had forgotten the simple lessons 
taught him by the dead woman, and promised 
to grow up an ignorant little vagabond. 

This seemed a terrible thing to one who 



MOST LONELY. 24;, 



had in his own youth been an eager 
student. 

" Master Ralph must go to school, Hannah," 
he said with decision. 

" To school ? That child !" exclaimed 
Hannah, disrespect and dislike curiously 
blended in her tone. 

"Yes," was the answer. " See that he is 
properly dressed on Monday morning, and I 
will take him to Mr. Fergusson's." 

This time Hannah made no direct reply ; 
but Mr. Brisco heard her banging the sauce- 
pans about in the kitchen, and saying for his 
benefit : 

" Could anybody believe it, and his own 
flesh and blood, too — -wants to kill him next." 

At the end of the first quarter Ralph 
knew no more than had been the case when 
he went to school. He could not spell words 
of two syllables ; in despair, Mr. Brisco wrote 
to his instructor, and this was the communica- 
tion he received in return : 

" Dear Sir, 

" If you will keep your boy at home 
four days out of the week, I think it some- 



246 MITRE COURT. 



what unreasonable on your part to expect 
much progress in his studies. 

" Yours faithfully, 

" Alex. Fergusson." 

That evening there was a very bad quarter 
of an hour at Homerton. Mr. Brisco did 
not say much ; but what he did say was to 
the purpose. No one could have been left 
in doubt as to his intentions. He meant his 
boy to be well educated ; and as Hannah had 
kept him from school, he must send him where 
the chance of staying away could not offer. 

He had discovered that Hannah was in 
the habit of supplementing the small wage 
she received from him by doing work for 
the neighbours — washing, ironing, scrubbing, 
anything, in fact, likely to bring in money. 
During these absences the boy ran wild, or 
else likewise visited the neighbours. About 
these offences he spoke. 

" If I did try to earn an honest penny, you 
ought to be the last to blame me for it. I 
did not spend what I got on myself, not a 
farthing of it," declared the angry woman, 
bursting into tears. 



MOST LONELY. 247 



Mr. Brisco did not speak, for he could not. 
He did not open his lips to contradict the 
torrent of reproach Hannah proceeded to 
pour forth against him. Almost like one 
guilty, he stood silent, as she rehearsed his 
shortcomings — enlarged on the comfort of 
the home from which he had taken his wife 
— of the grief it was to " that angel now in 
heaven ! ' not to have " things befitting about 
her." 

He listened in wonder, marvelling at last 
almost whether he had committed all the sins 
laid to his charge ; but he answered no 
syllable. Before the bar of what earthly 
tribunal shall a proud man defend himself 
against misconception and misrepresentation? 
He may not so defend himself. Pride ties 
his tongue concerning matters which another 
would dwell on, in order to repel the charge. 

How could Mr. Brisco tell anyone, how 
much less a foolish ignorant shrew, of the 
misery of the day he had fought through ; of 
his long youth of poverty ; of his manhood 
of struggle and disappointment ; of his heart 
rent in twain when the light of his life was 
taken from him ; of the unrewarded toil ; of 



:43 MITRE COURT. 



the gallant fight known only to himself; of 
the privations he had never accounted as 
such ; of the daily warfare he had waged 
with circumstances ; of the way he had tried 
to trample clown his grief, never leaving one 
thing undone his brave right hand found to 
do ; of the hopes, faint though they might 
be, of making a better thing of existence for 
his son than he had for himself; of the 
pinching economy he had practised, in order 
that the boy might not lack any reasonable 
comfort ? 

It was impossible, so he stood waiting 
with apparent indifference till the woman's 
vehemence had spent itself and dead silence 
reigned, broken only by panting sobs ; then 
he said : 

" I do not judge you. I believe you 
meant to act kindly by my child, but yours 
is a kindness which would ruin the boy. I 
cannot trust him with you any longer. He 
must go to a boarding school, cost what it 
may ; he shall not stop here another week." 

Hurt and troubled though he was, he 
would not give the woman notice. He 
remembered that she had loved his wife ; in 



MOST LONELY. 249 



her way, he knew she loved the child, and 
he felt it impossible to cast her from out the 
shelter of his poor home, which was at least 
warmer than the outer world. 

But she saved him all trouble by loudly 
and angrily discharging herself. She would 
not stay if her darling was to be taken from 
her. " She wouldn't stop — not she." 

" Very well," answered her master; "but 
remember I have not given you warning." 

"Oh! there's other ways of getting rid of 
those that have served their turn, besides 
giving warning," she replied, with a toss of 
her head and a defiant backward glance shot 
over her shoulder as she left the room. 

After that Ralph went to a school situate 
some twenty miles from London. The 
master had the name of pushing on his 
pupils, and Mr. Brisco wished the boy to 
make up for lost time. Presumably his son, 
goaded along the road to learning, did what 
in him lay to get on, for his progress certainly 
was more than creditable ; but the change 
from the softness and indulgence of his home 
life proved far too great, and before the year 
was out the schoolmaster sent in all haste to 



2 so MITRE COURT. 



say he was dangerously ill — that his life hung 
on a thread. 

Once more a struggling man had to face 
fresh and heavy expenses. It was six 
months before the matter of education could 
even be thought of again, and then the boy 
was placed under the charge of a curate who 
only received three pupils. 

This time Ralph did not acquit himself to 
the satisfaction of his teacher. He was 
reported idle, mischievous, hard to manage, 
fond of pleasure, impossible to instruct. For 
Latin and Greek he manifested a wicked 
hatred. He cared for nothing but amuse- 
ment and idle stories ; and, in a word, the 
reverend gentleman begged that a pupil who 
could never do him credit, and who had been 
received on reduced terms at a time when 
the R. G. was very glad indeed to get pupils 
on any terms, might be removed. 

With a sore heart Mr. Brisco did remove 
the lad. Remembering what he himself had 
been as a boy, dutiful, hard-working, his 
son's shortcomings seemed, perhaps, greater 
than they were. In all the sins mentioned, 
Mr. Brisco could but see the worthless 



MOST LONELY. 251 



feathers of the Daynes showing them- 
selves. 

Lazy, self-indulgent, unscrupulous, every 
man of them had been. 

" And if Ralph is to grow up like them I 
would rather lay him in his coffin," thought 
the poor father, as he travelled down to take 
charge of his youthful prodigal. 

Only one son, and he not a comfort. Only 
one child, for whom all his self-denial, all his 
hard work, all his plans, seemed destined to 
go for nought. 

Again Ralph was brought to London. 
This time his father got him into a good 
public school, and kept the lad under 
his own eye. Till he was a little over 
thirteen affairs seemed to progress more 
favourably. 

If he did not learn much, still he learnt 
something. 

" I must give him time — he is young— he 
will do well yet," thought the father. 

It was at this period a chance offered of 
renting the old house in Botolph Lane. 

Mr. Brisco saw the advantage of such an 
arrangement, and entered into an agreement 



252 MITRE COURT. 



to take over the lease. He laid his plans : 
he would toil and save for his boy, whom he 
meant to be a barrister. He would indulge 
in no superfluity. He would live frugally as 
of yore. During the day he would work 
hard, and at night he would open the old 
volumes business had forced him to lay 
aside, and look out passages in Cicero and 
Demosthenes to read to his dead wife's 
living son. 

But meantime he and his son were no 
nearer than they had ever been. It was 
only in the imagination of an eccentric man 
that wayward youth and crabbed age sat 
down together to read in the works of those 
who have left no message for a frivolous and 
light-minded generation. 

It was a dream, yet it pleased Mr. Brisco. 
The boy was not fourteen, but he thought 
already he ought to have an old head on his 
young shoulders. 

On the face of the earth there was 
nothing further from Ralph's mind than 
serious effort or study of any sort. He had 
youth's lack of comprehension of sorrow, 
shortness, struggle. He did not understand 



MOST LONELY. 253 



his father. He saw other boys well supplied 
with pocket-money, well dressed, well fed, 
well cared for. He did not understand why 
he too should not be well dressed, well fed, 
well cared for. 

So there came a division between him and 
his father. He had been asked by a certain 
schoolmate, named Harris, to a picnic party. 
Mr. Brisco at once negatived the invitation. 
Ralph said nothing, but went. When he 
returned home his father asked where he 
had been. The boy told him. Had his 
mother been living she would have smoothed 
matters and made everything right, but as 
affairs stood everything went wrong. 

In dogged silence Ralph listened to his 
father's reproaches. 

" I must end all this," said Mr. Brisco at 
last. " For years you have been a trouble 
and anxiety to me. I shall now place you 
where your propensities will be restrained, 
your disobedience checked, and your abilities, 
if you have any, developed. You are more 
than I can manage. I must find some one — 
I will immediately find some one able to 
control you. Now go to bed." 



254 MITRE COURT. 

Without a word Ralph slunk off. His 
father never had struck him, but perhaps he 
felt he deserved a thrashing. 

He did not get it, however. Afterwards 
Mr. Brisco felt glad to remember this, for 
next morning the lad was nowhere to be 
found — nowhere. 

He had no money — he did not take a 
thins: out of the house save himself and the 
clothes he wore over-night. Dressed just as 
his father had seen him last, he must have 
stolen from his home and gone — where ? 

High and low he was sought for, but not 
found. Days passed — weeks — months — and 
still no tidings were heard of the missing lad. 
Though she stoutly denied all knowledge of 
his whereabouts, Mr. Brisco for a long time 
clung to the belief that Hannah might, if she 
chose, furnish a clue to the mystery, but at 
length he felt compelled to abandon this idea. 

She was in service earning her wages 
hard by. How could she be keeping a 
boy in hiding, for whose discovery a reward 
was posted on every police station in the 
kingdom ? 

Had he known his son to be dead, Mr. 



MOST LONELY. 



Brisco fancied he should have borne the 
trouble better. What in comparison to this 
loss of her child had been the loss even of 
his wife ? It was the one charge left to him 
by her. How did it happen he had failed in 
his trust ? 

Once again the old anguish, from which 
time had taken somewhat of its poignancy, 
returned, bringing with it a deeper anguish 
still. Little over middle age, he looked an 
old man. His hair became grey, his face 
haggard, his body wasted. Night after 
night he rose from his bed when sleep 
refused to visit him, and wandered through 
the rooms, and paced the roof of a house in 
which he had hoped to make a fresh start for 
success if not for happiness. 

Pecuniarily he was doing better, com- 
paratively he was doing well, but the search 
for his boy could not be conducted without 
much expense ; and when he dared to face 
his accounts, he found that, so far from 
making headway, he had actually got into 
debt more deeply than ever. If health 
failed — if he were stricken down — what 
remained save the Union or suicide ? 



!56 MITRE COURT. 



Often in those days he felt tempted to end 
the long struggle ; but he was no coward ; 
besides, at any moment the wanderer might 
return. Like the father of old, from afar it 
was possible he should yet behold his 
prodigal ; and though he had no fatted calf 
to kill, or gold ring to put on his finger, or 
friends to make merry with, still the child — 
her child — would be restored to him. Dim 
and dark though the future seemed, it was 
the faint hope of once more seeing his son 
which kept the man alive and enabled him to 
work. He was still advertising, still em- 
ploying detectives, still drifting over a sea of 
doubt, when one winter's night he received a 
letter addressed in an unknown hand. 

Only a few lines were traced on the half- 
sheet of note-paper he drew out of the 
envelope. 

" Cease searching for your son. He has 
found a friend who will do better for him 
than you ever could." 

As he finished reading, all the old wounds 
in the man's proud, lonely heart seemed to 
burst out bleeding afresh. 



MOST LONELY. 257 



His son was alive, but with strangers, who 
were preferred before the father who had 
toiled, and suffered, and pinched, and denied 
himself for the boy as he had denied himself 
joyfully for the mother. 

It was then the iron entered into his soul 
— then the wall, which had always stood 
between this man and his fellows, rose in a 
moment so high that thenceforth he stood 
practically alone in a world filled with striving 
suffering, mourning, rejoicing, triumphant 
humanity. 




vol. 1. 17 




CHAPTER XIII. 



IN MITRE COURT. 




S a rule great enterprises do not 
spring in a moment to life booted 
and spurred. 

It may be true enough, as some persons 
assert, that remarkable ideas have flashed 
across their brains with the swiftness and 
brilliancy of lightning ; but, after all, an idea 
is one thing and a perfected project quite 
another. 

For this reason, once for all, it may 
be said that the great undertaking which 
ultimately brought money and notoriety to 
Karl Katzen was not a sudden inspiration. 
It grew and grew till it attained magnificent 
dimensions. 

He was as one who, casting strange seed 



IN MITRE COURT. 259 

into the ground, watches with astonishment a 
lordly crop springing from that which himself 
has planted. 

Mr. Katzen's imagination supplied that 
gentleman with an at first very miscellaneous 
assortment of grain f or culture. Some of it 
came to nothing. Some, when the crop was 
ripe, proved valueless ; but one root bore 
ears, as great as those in Joseph's dream. 
By the time he had finished harvesting, the 
new Consul's barns were full, and he had to 
enlarge all the plans of his life in order to 
hold the produce. 

It was some time, however, before he even 
thought of planting. In the wicked ways of 
monetary London he was no novice. He 
regarded the City exactly as Blucher did — as 
a place to sack. He had raised " the one 
thing needful," by every possible and well- 
nigh by every impossible means. He had 
been agent for specialities without number, 
and it may safely be said in no single instance 
did his principals come out scatheless. 

But that was never Mr. Katzen's fault ; 
some one else was always to blame, some- 
times even the principals themselves. It 

17 — 2 



260 MITRE COURT. 



was as easy to get firm grasp of an eel as 
of Mr. Katzen. He managed to keep just 
within the law, though how, sailing so near 
the wind, he contrived to do this he alone 
could have told. For indeed he did things 
quite beyond the law. He established differ- 
ent houses in various parts of the world, and 
drew upon those fictitious firms with a cool 
disregard of possible consequences that would 
have made any honest man's hair stand on 
end. 

Yet somehow it all came right. A person 
with unlimited assurance and almost un- 
limited resource, who is " constantly about," 
would indeed be dense if he failed to meet 
under the shadow of the Dragon and the 
Grasshopper with at least one flat a week. 
Mr. Katzen met with a great many flats — 
and a great many rogues — and so the whole 
game finally became one of manipulation. 
He never permitted anything to drift ; he 
was always prepared. When the time was 
ripe he failed ; not in a loud, demonstrative, 
aggravating sort of way — but meekly and 
mildly. 

He knew a solicitor accustomed to manag- 



IN MITRE COURT. 



ing such affairs, and so was wont to get his 
"matter shoved through" without any unne- 
cessary fuss. 

As a rule creditors hate trouble, and hate 
publicity still more. Many of them are not 
so solvent themselves that they care to have 
attention attracted to their losses. Therefore 
if Mr. Katzen offered anything in the way 
of a composition they were usually fain to 
accept it — and avoid bankruptcy. Already 
he had thus compounded three times ; 
and there seemed no great reason why he 
should not compound two hundred and 
ninety-seven times more — when the Consul- 
ship for New Andalusia dropped at his 
feet. 

Of course that was a job. The person 
who procured the appointment for him had 
an interest in his being so appointed, but that 
did not signify. For the first time in his life 
Mr. Katzen felt himself in a position to play 
at football with Fortune. Hitherto he could 
only be regarded, could only regard himself, 
as a mere hanger-on at her gates ; now he 
held a card for her assemblies. 

Archimedes wanted a waste piece of ground 



262 MITRE COURT. 



in space for the screw which should turn the 
earth. Mr. Katzen knew he had found a 
vacant plot where he could plant his machin- 
ery, but for a time he was at a standstill for 
some world to turn. 

There is a great deal in a name. In his 
case Mr. Katzen believed there was all in a 
name, and the result proved his belief was 
not mistaken. 

To the mind of ordinary humanity — you, 
and you, my neighbours, and you in the next 
street — it might not occur that the title of 
Consul meant anything beyond a certain 
salary ; but you, and you, and you, would be 
mistaken. Does not "Sir" carry a weight, 
and General, and Colonel, and Captain even ? 
and yet no one so designated may receive a 
penny of income from capital invested or 
from work fairly done. 

Once the notion was correct enough, but it 
is not now. It is greatly to the credit of the 
innocence of tradespeople that a title and a 
carriage can deceive them even in these days 
of " stores." After a little — when they have 
eaten more freely of the tree of the knowledge 
•f good and evil — they will learn a lesson 



IN MITRE COURT. 263 

which must prove bitter to their so-called 
betters. 

" The tide has turned," said Mr. Katzen 
to himself when he took possession of his new 
offices in Mitre Court, City, still almost as 
quiet and out-of-the-way a spot as the court- 
yard on which the old house in Botolph Lane 
looks out. 

No awkward demands now for further 
references, or cash in advance to tradesfolk, 
or something - at least on account before 
necessary work was commenced. Alterations 
were hurried on ; the rooms were swept and 
garnished, papered, painted, varnished, white- 
washed, filled with brand-new furniture ; and 
then, all being ready, Mr. Katzen seated 
himself in his new chair in front of a large 
library-table, looked at the still unsoiled 
blotting-pad, the envelope-case filled with 
headed notepaper, the large glass inkbottle 
into which pen had never yet been dipped, 
and considered the future, not without a 
vague wonder as to what that future might 
bring. 

His was an inscrutable face — his a 
phlegmatic manner. As a rule he met 



264 MITRE COURT. 



disaster and success with the same marvel- 
lous equanimity. When he made a coup, he 
did not go about the City open-mouthed, 
proclaiming his good fortune ; and if he 
came in for a loss, no one could have told 
the fact from his look or voice. 

It was true he had taken a departure in 
the matter of his new dig-nitv ; but this was 
partly owing to the circumstance that imagina- 
tion had for the time being obtained posses- 
sion of his nature, and greatly because he had 
a purpose to serve in sounding the trumpets 
and beating the drums in honour of Karl 
Katzen, Consul for New Andalusia. 

He knew — no one better — that many 
people might utterly fail to see the im- 
portance of his position, and that it was 
necessary to impress upon persons like the 
Jeffleys, for example, that he had suddenly 
ascended many rungs of the commercial 
ladder. Mrs. Jeffley would spread the news 
like a town-crier. Jack even might casually 
mention it. Common talk is as cheap a form 
of advertisement as can be adopted, and it 
was well, he felt, that the talk should make 
him as important an individual as possible. 



IN MITRE COURT. 26: 



Further, though he did not in the least know 
what he was going to do with New An- 
dalusia now he had got it, he felt there 
could be no harm in setting men's tongues 
wagging about a virtually unknown country. 
He might see his way to floating some mine, 
or starting some new industry — meat-pre- 
serving, emigration, fruit-growing, grain-ex- 
porting, humming-birds for ladies' bonnets — 
all sorts of plans and notions were seething 
in the caldron of his busy brain. What he 
wanted was to make money, and he did not 
care how. " After years I have at length got 
my great chance," he said to Mrs. Jeffley. 
" Patience, and you shall see what I will 
make of it." 

In the race he meant to run he did not 
carry an ounce weight. Even his rather 
doubtful antecedents counted for nothing. 
In London there are always fresh people 
coming forward. By the time one set of 
dupes have been squeezed dry, another are 
pressing on their heels in their greed for 
high interest — in their thirst for money they 
have not earned, clamouring almost to be 
cheated, to be eased of the hundreds and 



266 MITRE COURT. 



thousands they are ready to invest so 
recklessly. 

" If I can hit on a really good thing, it will 
be so much the better for us all," considered 
Mr. Katzen ; and then he walked to the 
windows, and drew down the blinds, and 
afterwards walked back to the table, and 
stood beside it thinking. 

In truth, he was in a state of mind unusual 
for him — restless. He wanted to begin to 
make his fortune that hour — that instant. 

The silence of the place did not calm him. 
On the contrary, the knowledge that a 
regular clerk was seated in the outer office, 
though in one way gratifying, rather in- 
terfered with that sense of personal liberty 
which can only be thoroughly enjoyed by a 
man who locks his door every time he goes 
out, and takes the key with him. He knew 
he should soon grow accustomed to the 
change, but meantime it was not quite 
pleasant. Further, he did not exactly like 
his clerk. He had, in a lordly sort of way, 
offered the berth to Frank Scott, and Frank 
Scott refused to accept it. This annoyed 
him more than the matter seemed worth, and 



IN MITRE COURT. 267 

caused a temporary coolness between Mrs. 
JefHey and a young fellow " who could not 
see his own interests." 

"You'll be just such another as Mr. 
Jeffley," said the brisk Maria, "and always 
stand in your own light. You'll never have 
such an offer again, Mr. Frank." 

" That is very likely," answered Mr. 
Frank ; " but I should not like to leave my 
present situation." 

" Well, well ; remember you have nobody 
but yourself to thank, whatever happens," 
retorted Mrs. Jeffley sharply — so sharply, 
indeed, that Frank, who had been rather in 
favour for a short time, thought it prudent to 
keep as much as possible out of his hostess' 
sight till his offence should be forgotten. 

"If you can't get a clerk to your mind," 
said Mrs. Jeffley to Mr. Katzen, " why do 
you not give a helping hand to your old land- 
lord, and let him have the situation ?" 

" He would not take it," was the reply. 

"You try him, that's all." 

" I lack courage," persisted Mr. Katzen. 
" Though he is as poor as one of your church 
mice, he is as proud as Lucifer." 



-63 MITRE COURT. 



" I have no patience with such nonsense," 
declared Mrs. Jeffley. " He ought to be 
thankful to get such a chance. I am sure 
the way that girl has to work is cruel — 
there ! and I do not mind who hears me 
say so." 

" She does not think so," was Mr. Katzen's 
only comment ; but he did not cease con- 
sidering Mrs. Jeffley's suggestion. 

A man like Mr. Brisco was the very 
person he wanted. Still, he could not make 
up his mind to hazard such a proposal. 

There was a fence in Mr. Brisco's nature 
the boldest rider seemed afraid to take. 
Even Mr. Katzen's impudence shrank from 
attempting it, and that gentleman had known 
him for a long time. Nevertheless, circum- 
stances alter cases ; and Mr. Katzen, in his 
now well-furnished, well-appointed offices, 
with his rank painted on the door, felt he 
was a different man from the Karl Katzen 
who rented a dark little room at a low rent 
in Botolph Lane, and often scarcely knew 
where the next meal was to come from. 

"Hang it!" he thought, walking again to 
the window, and this time pulling up the 



IN MITRE COURT. 269 

blind half-way. " A fellow so poor, and past 
his work, ought to be glad and grateful to 
get a salary for only sitting and answering 
questions and writing a few letters. I will 
put it to him on the very first occasion that 
offers." 

At the precise moment when he arrived at 
this determination, the clerk appeared, and 
stated that Mr. Brisco wished to see Mr. 
Katzen. 

" This is friendly," said the new Consul, as 
Mr. Brisco entered, holding out his hand 
with great cordiality, and shaking Mr. 
Brisco's bloodless fingers with a heartiness 
which caused that gentleman to wince. 
" Do you know you are my earliest visitor ? 
I am glad it should chance to be you who 
assume the character of ' first foot.' I think 
you will bring me good luck." 

Mr. Brisco smiled bitterly as he said, 
"Yes, I know I look just the sort of person 
to bring good luck." 

" Now I can't have that," remonstrated 
Mr. Katzen. " I have a presentiment — I 
feel it here," and he touched the left-hand 
side of his waistcoat — " that I am Sfoins: to 



270 MITRE COURT. 



be fortunate ; and who knows but that I may 
not prove instrumental in improving matters 
a little for you !" 

" That is a very kind remark," returned 
Mr. Brisco. It seemed a plain sort of speech, 
yet, though Mr. Katzen looked at his visitor 
hard, he could not quite understand what his 
late landlord really meant by it. 

" You see, I have got almost settled here," 
said the new Consul, glancing not without 
pride round his room. 

" Yes, you look very clean and new," 
answered Mr. Brisco, referring, doubtless, to 
the office ; for certainly no human being 
could with truth have said Mr. Katzen 
looked clean or new. Rather, he always 
presented a very second-hand appearance, 
seeming to stand almost as much in need of 
varnishing, and painting, and whitewashing, 
as his place had done. " I like your old 
house better, though." 

Mr. Brisco inclined his head in acknowledg- 
ment of the implied compliment. " Hayburn 
has given up the offices," he said. 

" No! Has he, though?" 

" Yes. Sold his furniture to Welford ; 



IN MITRE COURT. 271 



paid his rent up to last March, and left me 
without a tenant." 

"What an unprincipled hound! What a 
dog in the manger! And I did so want 
those rooms." 

"Yes, it is unfortunate." 

"It will be a serious loss to you, having 
those rooms empty," observed Mr. Katzen, 
who knew perfectly well Mr. Brisco had 
come to tell him of Mr. Hayburn's change of 
front, hoping he would return to Botolph 
Lane. 

" I have served my apprenticeship to loss," 
said Mr. Brisco. 

Sitting there in the bright sunshine, he 
looked indeed a man who had served as he 
stated. 

His coat, once black, had changed with 
age to green. It was of an antique cut, worn 
quite white at the seams, and polished across 
the shoulders. His trousers, of shepherd's 
plaid, seemed to have shrunk with the years, 
that had likewise rendered them baggy at 
the knees. His waistcoat was of some sort 
of nankeen, fashionable, possibly, at a remote 
period, but it was faded with frequent washing, 



172 MITRE COURT. 



and glazed with repeated starching - . He had 
a green and white muslin necktie, and his 
only ornament was an ancient silver watch, 
attached to a steel chain. As for his hat, its 
pensive browns looked almost picturesque in 
the strong light which brought out many 
changing shades, and lit up also the severe 
lines of that sad, emaciated face. He had a 
high forehead, a small aquiline nose, thin and 
almost colourless lips, small cold eyes of a 
steely blue, scanty grey hair, whiskers equally 
scanty and equally grey, that gave him an 
almost rugged appearance. He was tall, and 
had no doubt been, at one period of his life, 
a fine-looking man. 

" Old Mortality," one of his tenants had 
dubbed him, and Mr. Katzen, on that 
summer's morning, thought the name fitted 
to a nicety. 

In the new Consul's freshly painted office 
— smelling of varnish ; furniture glossy and 
polished from the maker's hands — Mr. Brisco- 
looked as much out of place as a dingy " old 
master," its frame tarnished and broken, would 
seem in the drawing-room of a nouveau rzche. 

Such as he was, however — a mere wreck 



IN MITRE COURT. 273 

of what had been — he sat with the light 
streaming full on his face and figure. He 
and Mr. Katzen might at that moment have 
suggested to the mind of any fanciful observer 
the Spirits of the Past and the Present. For 
Mr. Brisco, no future of prosperity appeared 
possible ; whereas, to men like the new 
Consul, there is often but one stride from 
failure to success. 

" I expect you have known a good deal 
of loss," said Mr. Katzen, in answer to his 
old landlord's last remark. " But let us hope 
there are better times to come." 

"If you please," suggested Mr. Brisco, 
" we will not speak about what sort of times 
may be in store for me, or of me, indeed, 
at all." 

"As you like," returned Mr. Katzen gaily. 
" Of what shall we talk ? I know there are 
not many subjects that interest you." 

" Suppose you speak about yourself," 
suggested Mr. Brisco. " I shall be glad to 
hear how you are getting on, and I fancy the 
theme will not weary you. Men as a rule, I 
notice, do not weary of harping on one 
string if it be a personal one." 

vol. 1. 18 



274 MITRE COURT. 



" To that rule you are an exception," 
answered the Consul. 

" To most rules I fancy I am an exception. " 

" My faith, I think you are- — I think you 
are," said Mr. Katzen, softly patting the 
table. " But we were not to talk about you, 
I remember — only about this good child, 
Karl Katzen. Well, what is it you desire to 
know as regards the new Consul and your 
old friend. (I wonder what he is diving 
after — what wind has blown him here," 
added Mr. Brisco's old friend in a mental 
parenthesis.) 

" What are you doing ?" 

" Nothing." 

" What are you going to do ?" 

" That depends — make my fortune, for one 
thing." 



" How " 

" What is the good of planning ? I have 
no plans. Wherever I see a chance I shall 
go in and win- — wherever there is a weak 
point in the wall I shall enter and take 
possession." 

"You really think you are going to make 
money." 



IN MITRE COURT. 275 

"No, pardon me — I do not think; I am 
sure. So far, there has been no time to 
compass anything. You come to me before 
we are another year older, and you shall hear 
what you shall hear." 

"It will give me great pleasure to hear 
you are doing well." 

" I believe you, I really do — I am quite in 
earnest. I cannot think there is any jealousy 
about you." 

"Why do you lay such an emphasis upon 
that you — do you know many men given to 
the sin of jealousy ?" 

"No, I do not; but I have it on Miss 
Weir's authority that all men are jealous." 

" Do you mean Abigail ?" 

" Even so — the charming Miss Abigail." 

" What can she know about jealousy ?" 

" You had better ask her, dear sir. She 
knows a great deal about many things. / 
won't ask her — she might box my ears." 

For a moment Mr. Briscosat silent, looking 
down at the pattern of the carpet ; then, 
lifting his head, he said with abrupt 
directness : 

" I will be plain with you — I did not come 

18—2 



!76 MITRE COURT. 



here to-day to ask after your welfare, though 
I am glad to hear you mean to prosper. I 
wanted to know — that is — do you remember 
some time ago bidding me observe that 
Abigail was a child no longer, but a eirl — 
who might have lovers ?" 

" I well remember — that was at Whitsun- 
tide. What then ?" 

"Had you any special reason for making 
such a remark ?" 

" I ? Lord, no !" 

" You are quite sure ?" 

" Quite. Are you sure you have no special 
reason for reverting to the subject ?" 

"Were I only to answer 'No,' I should 
not be answering quite truthfully ; yet I feel 
I have no right to answer ' Yes.' ' 

" I suspect you have, though !" exclaimed 
Mr. Katzen. " Take me into confidence — 
tell me what is troubling you. Am I not the 
little one's friend ? Have I not known her 
since six years ? She was but a mite then in 
her short skirt and that funny jacket, and 
now she is — but you know what she is now 
better than I. Yes, tell me, Mr. Brisco — 
you could not tell anyone better able to 



IN MITRE COURT. 277 

advise and help you than I — who is the 
lover. I told her I felt a conviction there 
was one at least waiting round the corner. I 
await with impatience your disclosure." 

" I have nothing to disclose," answered Mr. 
Brisco slowly. " There is, so far as I know, 
not any lover ; but — I am scarcely satisfied 
about the girl. She is changed in some way 
— and she has no mother — we can go to," he 
added after an almost imperceptible pause. 

"How, changed? How, not satisfied?" 
demanded the new Consul. " I implore you 
to confide in me, to pour out your heart to 
Karl Katzen, who knows all about women 
from their tight boots to their false hair. 
What you tell shall be buried deep here," 
and again he placed a hand on his waistcoat. 

" There is nothing much to tell," said Mr. 
Brisco. 

" At any rate, tell it," urged his old friend. 

" I suppose I had better," answered Mr. 
Brisco, and after a moment's hesitation he 
be^an. 




CHAPTER XIV. 



ABOUT ABIGAIL. 




DO not think," said Mr. Brisco, 
" I should have noticed the change 
which has taken place in Abigail 
had it not been for the remark you made 
about her." 

" I have a ' think ' too," answered the new 
Consul; "and it makes me feel very sure 
of your own self you would have noticed 
nothing. No — no — I pray you not to look 
so black ; since a long time you are aware 
your old friend Katzen is nothing if not frank." 

Supposing Mr. Brisco's friend Katzen had 
substituted the word "rude" for " frank," he 
might have been nearer the bull's-eye he 
meant to hit. 

For a moment Mr. Brisco hesitated ; then 



" ABOUT ABIGAIL." 279 



he said, "You are right. Occupied with my 
own concerns, but for the advantage of 
coming in contact with a younger and less 
preoccupied intelligence than my own I 
should certainly, I fear, have failed to observe 
events passing under my eyes." 

"As for example?" queried Mr. Katzen, 
with no look of greater interest in his face, 
with no brighter light in his dull eyes, his 
hands motionless — his whole aspect that of a 
person who was listening to mere babble for 
the sake of civility. 

Foreigners sometimes overdo the thing. 

" I beg your pardon," said Mr. Brisco, 
rising, and buttoning his shabby coat around 
his lean figure, " I ought not to have intruded 
upon your valuable time a matter so merely 
personal." 

" I seem able to do right never !" ex- 
claimed Mr. Katzen, rising too, and literally 
forcing his visitor down again into the just 
vacated seat. "If it happen that I express 
an opinion, I am wrong ; if I ask for in- 
formation, pray for a mere glimmer of light 
to guide me along the darksome road of a 
woman's mind — always supposing a woman 



MITRE COURT. 



to have a mind as well as a will — I go wrong 
once more. Do extend a little patience to 
one who does not quite understand the 
English game of hot and cold. I want to 
find, I do — but though perhaps you believe 
you are playing some sort of music to help 
German stupidity, upon my soul, I do not 
understand a note of it. What events are 
they which but for one casual remark of mine 
would have passed unseen under eyes usually 
keen and quick enough ?" 

" They can scarcely prove of interest to 
you," said Mr. Brisco coldly. " I forgot that 
you had entered on a new sphere, and have 
naturally left former times behind." 

" I have left no times behind — a man can't 
cast his skin like a toad, and drop portions of 
himself along life's weary highway. Besides, 
I would not, if I could, forget an hour spent 
in the old house. Ach ! have I not been 
happy there, spite of all the trouble ; and if I 
took not an interest in you and the girl, in 
whom should 1 take an interest ?" 

" You are very good indeed to say so," 
remarked Mr. Brisco, mollified, yeti scarcely 
appeased. 



« ABO UT A BIG A ZL." 281 



" I think so, which is more. Can I not 
recall that bitter winter morning when I went 
to the office early on no pleasant errand of 
mine own ! That charming Mrs. Childs with 
her lovely niece in attendance stood aside in 
all humility on the first landing to let my 
great self pass upstairs. The good creature's 
face was pinched with cold — every part of it 
which was not black was blue. Dirt was 
ground into each line of her countenance — 
she was so dirty, she looked like an old 
master, or a blurred engraving ; so dirty, 
she struck me as absolutely picturesque, and 
I could not avoid stealing another glance. It 
was then I saw in her face something more 
than the pinch of cold or the black of grime. 

" 'What has occurred ?' I asked ; and she, 
good diplomatic soul, made answer, ' Only 
that we have got a stranger here.' 

"'What sort of a stranger,' I asked — 'a 
white mouse or a new kind of black beedle ?' 
Mrs. Childs always calls them ' beedles,' and as 
she ought to be an authority on black things, 
I suppose she is right." 

" Your memory seems excellent," suggested 
Mr. Brisco. 



MITRE COURT. 



" It is indeed," said Mr. Katzen, taking no 
notice of the impatient ring in his ex-land- 
lord's voice ; "but not to weary you, and to 
what you English so funnily call cut a long 
story short, Mrs. Childs, after declaring it was 
worse than a mouse ' or any other vermin,' 
' up and told me' — to adopt a favourite phrase 
of her own — that there was a little girl in the 
house — that where she had come from was a 
mystery — that the clothes which covered her 
were in such rags it was only the threads held 
them together — that she was at that very 
minute as ever was, while Mrs. Childs stood 
talking to me — begging my pardon for the 
liberty — going on dreadful, in a manner of 
speaking all in a quaking delirium, and that 
something warned her evil must come of it : 
she only hoped it might not be to Mr. Brisco 
himself, who had almost snapped the nose off 
her face for offering to go, in the piercing 
cold too, in search of a policeman, who would 
have taken the young hussy to the station- 
house. Dear Mrs. Childs was most energetic 
and delightful, and the maiden Sophy stood 
sniffling and chuckling till her aunt said she 
had better mind her manners, more especially 



"ABOUT ABIGAIL." 283 

as such a disgrace had come upon a decent 
house. She also told me of a bad dream she 
dreamt, no longer ago than the night before 
last, or she hoped she might never stir again ; 
and would have enlarged upon the fact that 
dreaming of being on the water meant trouble, 
but I cut her short, and went up to my office, 
where I found annoyance enough waiting to 
put dreams and girls and rags and Mrs. 
Childs out of my mind." 

" I wonder I tolerated such a creature 
about the house," muttered Mr. Brisco. 

" She did her work," commented the 
Consul, "but I fear she used a great deal too 
much Nixey. She was, she is, a living 
example of the powers of black lead ; the 
only drawback is, she does not polish. Well, 
to return to our sheep." 

" I have not an idea what sheep it was, or 
where we left it browsing," interrupted Mr. 
Brisco. 

" Here is a colley can find it," laughed the 
other. "We have never really lost sight of 
your pet lamb." 

" You could scarcely have selected two 
words less appropriate to myself and the 



284 MITRE COURT. 

girl had you searched the dictionary 
through," retorted Mr. Brisco — " nothing 
more grotesque than the idea of my keeping 
a pet could well be conceived ; and whatever 
else she may be, Abigail certainly does not 
resemble a lamb." 

" I do not know that she does," confessed 
the new Consul. " She is not fluffy, and it 
might be hard to lead her even with the help 
of a blue ribbon anywhere she did not want 
to go. The first time I saw her, I thought 
she was an imp. My faith ! shall I ever 
forget my amazement ? I had been absent 
for nearly three months — I left you in winter ; 
when I returned it was spring. I had passed 
through a bad time, a very bad time. The 
ill news I found waiting for me the morning- 
good Mrs. Childs and I met on your stairs 
took me abroad, and kept me there for many 
an anxious day ; and it was a beautiful 
evening in April when once again I inhaled 
the delightful odours of Love Lane. The 
evening was Saturday. En route to Fowkes' 
Buildings, T thought, ' I'll just see if the old 
house is still standing.' It was looking as I 
had left it. I ran up the steps, I put my key 



''ABOUT ABIGAIL." 285 

in the lock, the latch lifted, and in a moment 
I passed from the subdued grey of Love 
Lane into a hall bathed with the yellow light 
of a setting sun. The door looking out on 
the courtyard stood wide ; around the court- 
yard were the silent warehouses, deserted till 
the second morning of another week. A 
silence as of perfect rest — not death — reigned 
throughout the place. It seemed like an 
enchanted palace, with broad streams of 
mellow sunshine flooding marble floor and 
the great staircase and the once panelled 
walls. There only wanted one touch of life, 
and it came. 

" From out the dining-room there sprang a 
small figure, clad in a blue skirt and a red 
garibaldi. It carried a tin pot-lid, on which 
it played some music to which it sang and 
danced. It went through every possible antic 
of movement and gesture ; except the dancing 
crane, I have never seen anything half so 
funny : — ' Tir-a-la — tir-a-la — la-ta — tir-a-la — 
tir-a-la — la-ti — tir — turn — tir-to — tir-de — tir- 
a-la — tir-a-la — tir-a-la — tir-a-la — tir-dum — ' 
and then she saw me " 

" Time she did," interposed Mr. Brisco. 



286 MITRE COURT. 



:i Now don't be cynical," entreated the 
narrator, " because you know you take an 
interest in the young monkey. 

"'Well, fairy sprite,' I asked, 'and where 
do you come from ?' 

"'Well, burglar man,' she replied as bold 
as brass, ' and where do you come from ?' 

" She was not in the least afraid. I put the 
question to her, and she said contemptuously, 
'What should I be afraid of? But you have 
no business here — how did yoii get in ?' ' 

" I suppose you are recalling these events 
under the impression that they must prove 
interesting to me," interposed Mr. Brisco. 
"If, however, I assure you that they are on 
the contrary unpleasant, perhaps you will 
kindly confine yourself to the present, and 
say whether you had really any hidden reason 
for the remark you made some time ago to 
the effect that Abigail was a comely girl who 
had reached a marriageable age." 

"Is she not what you call comely — is she 
too young to think of marriage ? Heaven ! 
she is not too young for other people to think 
of marrying her !" 

"What people ?" 



"ABOUT ABIGAIL." 287 

" What people ! any people — every people." 

" Has it ever come to your knowledge, 
that amongst the multitude of human beings 
you seem to imagine must desire to marry the 
girl, there is one in especial for whom she 
cares r 

Mr. Katzen paused. He felt almost in- 
clined to answer, " Yes, she cares for Karl 
Katzen," but doubt and prudence combined 
kept him silent. Besides, he wanted to see 
Mr. Brisco's hand. He believed that gentle- 
man held a court card of some sort, and there 
was nothing he desired more than to know 
its exact value. 

" No," he said at last, " I have not any in- 
formation on the subject. How should I 
have ?" 

" I cannot tell," answered Mr. Brisco. " I 
cannot tell." There was such a tone of de- 
spondency in his words that Mr. Katzen's 
curiosity at once sprang into more active life. 
He took his cue in a moment. 

" Look you here, long year friend and 
landlord," he exclaimed, "why should we 
play at hot and cold any longer ? You be- 
lieve there is something to be found — what is 



-88 MITRE COURT. 



it ? You want my help to find it- — where do 
you think is the most likely place for us to 
go look ?" 

" Why should I trouble you about the 
matter ?" said Mr. Brisco. 

"Why ? Because I remember — because you 
and the ofirl are more to me than most. It 
was because I wanted you to feel I was one 
with you, that I talked a while ago what you 
thought babble. Is it babble to say I have 
not forgotten the old wide-eaved, many- 
srabled wooden house where I was born ; that 
in waking dreams I see often the pine-woods 
and the blue mountains of my fatherland (I 
thank D'Israeli the first for anglicizing that 
phrase) ; that the blue-green depths of the 
Rhine still hold mysteries for me, and that, 
though common-sense says ' No,' fantasy- 
makes me see and hear the Lorelei seated on 
her high grey rock, singing such sweet and 
plaintive songs as cause wise men to rush to 
their doom ? After all, the backbone of life 
is memorv, and the longer a man lives, and 
the stronger his mind grows, the more he 
recurs to the past." 

" It may be so," agreed Mr. Brisco : " yet, 



"ABOUT ABIGAIL." 289 

personally, I cannot think memory a bless- 
ing." 

« No ? — yet consider what pictures she 
paints for one ! Where is the art gallery 
hung with such gems as you may find hung 
on the walls of any man's mind ? — many a sad 
scene, many a sordid interior, no doubt ! But 
think of the landscapes — of the glorious 
dawns, of the sleepy noons, of the busy street 
scenes, of the tender moonlights, and the 
magnificent sunsets any man who has eyes 
to see, and a heart to understand, may collect 
to gladden his heart withal, before he has 
reached the first third of man's allotted span." 

" No doubt you are right," said Mr. Brisco 
dreamily. He was trying to understand — 
striving, as at some time we must all have 
striven — vaguely to comprehend the purely 
intellectual, and to us well-nigh unintelligible 
view of men, nature, and art, which is taken 
by foreigners. We — speaking of English 
folk generally — look out of the windows of 
our heart ; we narrow everything into a 
question of feeling. It is not so with those 
born out of our nice little, tight little island. 
Sentiment may cloud or gild the world's face 

vol. 1. 19 



290 MITRE COURT. 



to the eye of a foreigner, but as a rule he sur- 
veys all God's wondrous gifts to man through 
mental spectacles. 

He sees things as they are ; we see them 
as we feel them. 

It is this difference, I imagine, which 
separates us from foreigners. They are too 
wise, too sensible, too shrewd, to please or 
be pleased with a foolish nation impelled along 
the rails of life by the force of its own weight. 

"Yes," said Mr. Katzen, answering Mr. 
Brisco's informal thought. " I am quite 
right. The girl's first coming, her terror, her 
rags, her entreaty, have left no such picture 
on your memory as the first sight of that 
lean, quaint child, dancing over the marble 
once trodden by your great Sir Christopher, 
has on me. Ach Gott ! as I talk the years 
roll back, and I see her once again with her 
quaint airs and funny graces — ' Tir-a-la, tir-a- 
la, tir-de ' — and then, in the middle of our 
after-talk, down comes Mrs. Childs, fresh 
from the rite of some mysterious dirt-offering. 

" ' What are you doing, missy ?' she cried, 
in that pleasant voice of hers. ' You had 
best get out of this. If Mr. Brisco finds you 



"ABOUT ABIGAIL:' 291 

a-dancing about his hall, and a-wearing out of 
his marble stones, he'll pay you.' 

" Then missy went ruefully, finger in 
mouth, tambourine again transformed into 
a pot-lid hanging by her side, the little 
twinkling feet changed in an instant to feet 
that seemed to carry a burden, and her 
wonderful, tender, saucy eyes full, quite full, 
of tears. 

" 'Who is she ?' I asked Mrs. Childs ; and 
then that excellent person said she was the 
sweeping of some slum. I thought of the 
dust before the besom, and inquired where the 
dust had gone. 

" ' To her bit of a room, sir,' answered dear 
Mrs. Childs. 'It's there she generally goes 
when she's in one of her tantrums.' 

"Without saying anything to Mrs. Childs, 
I sought that bit of a room, and knocked. 

" 'Who's that ?' sanQf out the waif. 

" ' The bad burglar man,' I answered. 

" ' The bad burglar man must take himself 
off,' she said, '/'m going to bed.' 

" ' Good-night, then, my dear,' I cried 
through the keyhole, ' till Monday.' " 

" Yes, Mr. Katzen ?" 

19 — 2 



292 MITRE COURT. 



" Yes, Mr. Brisco." 
" I meant to inquire, what then ?" 
" I meant to inquire, what now ?" 
" I fail exactly to catch your meaning." 
" Really ? Well, perhaps — anyhow, this is 
the way affairs stand. The little bright, im- 
pudent child has grown to a brighter, impu- 
denter girl, and you fear for her — fear the 
woman's lot has come — fear she likes some- 
body who perhaps likes not her the right 
way." 

"What are you driving at?" asked Mr. 
Brisco, a hot gust of passion agitating his 
voice, and causing the swift delicate colour 
the new Consul had learnt to know so well, 
to tinge his pale cheeks with the faintest 
shade of pink. "If anyone cares for the 
girl, and I have no reason to suppose any- 
one does, why should he not care for her in 
the right way ? Abigail is no baby. She 
needs no mother to warn her of the world's 
pitfalls. The women she has mixed most 
with are not usually given to reticence. She 
might fail to pass an examination in the 
world's wickedness. One French novel, I dare 
say, contains more vice than is known in the 



' ' ABOUT A BIG A IL." 293 

whole ward of Billingsgate. But she is wise, 
and spite of her somewhat flippant tongue, 
modest. I am not afraid she will go wrong, 
no — spite of " 

"What?" questioned Mr. Katzen, as the 
elder man paused abruptly. 

" Nothing — or rather, as you might attach 
a wrong meaning to my sentence if I left it 
unfinished, I will say, spite of her ante- 
cedents " 

" You are aware, then, of the nature of her 
antecedents 

" Yes." 

" Thereby hangs a tale, I suppose." 

" Which I have no intention of telling." 

" I suspect you are wise." 

" I suspect you have not the slightest 
notion whether I am wise or foolish." 

Mr. Katzen smiled. 

" Come," he said, " don't let two good 
friends quarrel. The subject of Miss Abi- 
gail's grandpapa and grandmamma — shall 
we put the doubtful relations back to that 
point ?" 

" You can put them where you please," 
interrupted Mr. Brisco. " There is no ques- 



Z94 MITRE COURT. 



tion but that the Qfirl was born in lawful 
wedlock." 

" You know the fact for a certainty, do 
you ?" 

" She is as legitimate as you are, I was 
going to remark ; but — you must excuse the 
awkwardness of my amendment — since I have 
not the faintest notion of the circumstances 
under which you came into the world — the 
comparison might not be quite fair to 
Abigail." 

" You leave me untouched this time," 
answered Mr. Katzen. " My father and 
mother were tied up tight enough in that 
matrimonial knot even you English find it 
sometimes hard enough to undo. Darby and 
Joan, they are living still. Boy and girl, 
they were betrothed ; young man and young 
woman, they were married ; husband and wife, 
they brought up a large family ; old man and 
old woman, they yet pass in and out of the 
same house they entered hand in hand bride 
and bridegroom. No, Mr. Brisco ; Miss 
Abigail's papa and mamma may have been 
persons of higher social standing than the 
parents of this poor foreigner ; but I confess, 



"ABOUT ABIGAIL." 295 

considering the circumstances under which 
the dear child made her first appearance in 
Botolph Lane, I should scarcely judge her to 
be the lineal descendant of any belted earl." 

Mr. Brisco looked straight in the speaker's 
face, while he said gravely : 

" So far as I am acquainted with Abigail 
Weir's pedigree, there is no earl in it." 

" But something better, perhaps ?" 

" There was one honest man ; but he can 
only be considered a very poor substitute, 
spite of all our fine phrases concerning that 
vara avis being the noblest work of God." 

" Now, I wonder," considered Mr. Katzen, 
" whether, after all, you have only been a very 
sly old fox, receiving money for keeping our 
sharp young friend out of the way." 

The idea was so congenial and delightful, 
that at once Mr. Brisco seemed to grow in 
wisdom and in stature before the new Consul's 
eyes. 

" I'll be bound that's the way of it," he 
thought. "Wait a little, though ; now it 
behoves me to be doubly cautious." 

And even while his heart burned within 
him, he managed to maintain absolute silence. 



296 MITRE COURT. 

"Well, Mr. Katzen," said his visitor, at 
length. " Am I the unworthy subject of so 
much conjecture ?" 

" Yes and no," answered Mr. Katzen, ap- 
parently waking up to the urgency of present 
affairs. " I was thinking of you, but only in 
connection with your strange charge ; for put 
the matter as you will, Miss Weir is a strange 
charge." 

" She is one I did not seek." 

" I believe that, utterly. I used often to 
wonder why you took her in at all." 

" That is a question which, in the former 
days, often perplexed me." 

"You did not like her, With half an eye 
anyone could see that." 

" No ; on the contrary — she was antago- 
nistic to me." 

" Yet you kept her out of pity." 

" Perhaps — partly — I scarcely know why I 
did allow her to stop." 

" Yes, I guessed that. The whole thing 
used to puzzle me vastly — Miss Abby most 
of the whole. She knew she was not wanted, 
and, personally, I should not have imagined 
the old house a palace likely to captivate a 



"ABOUT A BIG A IL." 297 

child's fancy ; nevertheless, having made up 
her mind to stop, she stopped. I often 
laughed, thinking how like a stray cat she 
comported herself — satisfied with the poor 
welcome of mere sufferance, making a great 
feint of being greeted with effusion, keeping 
out of the way as much as possible ; and when 
forced to appear in evidence before you, 
cringing into her small body, or else figura- 
tively rubbing her head against table-legs and 
chairs, and odd corners, as is the preliminary 
form of conciliation first adopted by unwel- 
come pussies. After a time, who so impudent 
and familiar as the stray tabby ? How she 
clamours for milk, and insists on meat ! How 
she luxuriates before the fire, and selects the 
softest pillow to stretch herself upon ; with 
what ill-concealed impatience or lofty conde- 
scension she receives the advances of friendly 
strangers ! As I talk, I declare the likeness 
deepens. Think of how scurvily Abigail now 
treats her fellow-creatures ! Looking back* 
I can scarcely imagine her to be the same 
girl who at one time, when surprised or fright- 
ened, had every tone and trick and gesture of 
a street-beggar." 



29S MITRE COURT. 



" She was never a street-Deodar, sir." 

" Your pardon, I never said she was — only 
that she acted the part most excellently well. 
However, that has nothing to do with the 
matter in hand ; we had best let bygones be 
bygones, and only think of Miss Abigail as 
we see her grown — bright, saucy, pretty. 
Come, Mr. Brisco, though I dare say you 
found out, long ago, that beauty is vanity, 
and woman a snare — confess Abigail is pretty, 
pretty enough to give some young fellow the 
heartache." 

" I suppose she is," answered Mr. Brisco. 
" Yes, I see she is." 

" We are getting on — I am glad of that," 
said Mr. Katzen ; " and now you came here 
to tell me something." 

" I came here to ask whether you had made 
that remark of yours haphazard or from 
observation, and you will not answer me 
straightforwardly." 

" My good heavens ! dear friend, what 
can you want more than I have said ? I 
know no young man whose heart is aching ; 
but reason assures me there must be one such 
young man, if not more. Who he is — what 



"ABOUT ABIGAIL." 299 



he is — where he is, I have no more idea than 
a baby; only he must be, I am sure of it. We 
have all been young ; I have been young 
myself once." 

If Mr. Katzen hoped to elicit any polite 
remark from Mr. Brisco about his being 
young still, he was disappointed. 

" I dare say you were/' said Mr. Brisco 
" but that does not help me much." 

"No? — yet I think it might. The per- 
son who is not too old to remember his teens 
may prove of some service in disentangling 
the vagaries of youth. Give me one end of 
your skein, and let us see what we can do in 
the way of unravelling it." 

Again Mr. Brisco paused, then he said 
hesitatingly : 

" I have scarcely anything to speak about, 
but yet " 

"A straw shows how the wind blows, a 
straw may enable me to help your — inex- 
perience." 

" Put it that way if you like. I am inex- 
perienced in such matters. I do not profess 
to know much about women — my knowledge 
of girls is even less ; yet I confess the change 



MITRE COURT. 



which has lately come over Abigail — though 
but for you I admit I might have failed to see 
it — appears to me extraordinary." 

" I asked you before, ' as for example ?' — 
and you took huff and would have walked 
off had I not prayed you to remain. Now 
we have come to a comprehension, however, 
what is this metamorphosiswhich has removed 
our dear rebellious maiden to a sphere not 
recognisable ? If I met her, should I feel 
constrained to ask, Can this be Abigail ?" 

"The alteration might not strike you, but 
it surprises me." 

" Has her hair turned white in a single 
night ? Has she lines across her forehead, 
and have crow's-feet stamped their foul im- 
print round her eyes ?" 

" No ; but — 'you remember how she used 
to sing ?" 

" I remember, at any rate, how you used 
to love to hear her sing," answered Mr. Kat- 
zen ironically. 

"Well, if I tell you I should be glad to 
hear her sing now, perhaps you will under- 
stand the alteration a short time has sufficed 
to work." 



"ABOUT ABIGAIL" 301 



" What, has Abigail ceased carolling ?" 
asked the new Consul, genuinely surprised. 

" Entirely." 

"And does she seem out of sorts, as you 
phrase it ?" 

" She is grave, if not sad." 

"And all this has come about since my 
departure ?" 

"All this has come about since your depar- 
ture. 

" Perhaps she is pining for me." 

" She may be," answered Mr. Brisco drily ; 
but there was something in his tone which 
suggested that he did not think it probable. 

Mr. Katzen grinned appreciatively. 

" I am right. Depend upon it," he said, 
"Abigail misses her old playfellow. Ah, you 
don't know, you never knew, what a com- 
panion I was to our little friend ; and, my 
faith ! what a companion she was to me too ! 
I can hear her screams of delight now when 
she used to find where I had stolen away. It 
was a rare house that of Sir Christopher's for 
hide-and-seek I Once the young monkey led 
me a pretty dance ! 'Twas in the dusk ; then 
— after I had exhausted the premises and 



302 MITRE COURT. 



myself — she jumped out on me from the dog- 
kennel. 

" 'Come, you awful child,' I cried, ' confess — 
this is not the first time you crept in that hole.' 

" She put her fingers in her mouth and 
dropped her head and began rubbing the toe 
of her right shoe backward and forward over 
the stones — you know her trick — and would 
have slunk off, only I held her fast. 

'''How many nights,' I asked, 'did you 
sleep in the dog-kennel before Mr. Brisco 
found you in the cellar ?' 

" ' Two,' she whispered. 

"Great heavens! Think of it — think of 
that wretched baq; of bones dmo-p-ins itself 
under those steps and lying there hidden 
while we were all groins backwards and 
forwards ! Then consider how soon she 
threw all the trouble off, and went laughing, 
singing, dancing, about the rooms !" 

For a moment Mr. Brisco had clenched his 
hand tight, but he immediately opened it again. 

" How r interesting," he remarked, "not to 
say instructive, to hear of the many things 
which have been going on under one's own 
roof without one's own knowledge !" 



ABOUT ABIGAIL? 303 



"Very," agreed Mr. Katzen drily, "es- 
pecially when one considers how numerous 
are the incidents which may be enacting 
now while one remains in a state of equal 
ignorance." 

Mr. Brisco looked straight in the new 
Consul's face. "Again I ask you," he said, 
" is there any meaning hidden behind your 
words ?" 

"And again I answer, None, beyond what 
you English talk so much about and really 
value so little — -plain common-sense. If Miss 
Abigail have got a lover, do you think it is 
likely she will take you into confidence ?" 

" It is not likely," confessed Mr. Brisco, 
" and yet " 

" Yet what ?" 

"If she have got a lover, why should she 
make a mystery of the matter ? I suppose 
all girls get lovers. It is the common 
lot." 

" Faith, no ; I fancy you are wrong in that 
conclusion. As one of your own beautiful 
songs makes a neglected maid say — 

" ' /never was guilty of refusing many, 
For, the Lord knows my heart, I'd be thankful for any.' 



304 MITRE COURT. 



That is right. In the present imperfect state 
of society there is not a Jack for every 
Jill — besides, some Jills get too many 
Jacks." 

"After all," said Mr. Brisco, "Abigail's 
thoughts may be tending in quite another 
direction. It is possible she has grown 
weary of the old house." 

" Her weariness must be of very recent 
date then," commented Mr. Katzen. 

" The change is recent. Formerly, as you 
know, she picked up scraps of learning in an 
irregular, desultory manner. Without much 
application she " 

" Contrived to get herself wonderfully well 
educated," finished Mr. Katzen. 

" But yet not thoroughly, Now, however, 
she is devoting every spare moment to the 
acquisition of languages " 

" Languages ! What languages ?" 

" Well, amongst others — German " 

" Ach Gott — that is good !" exclaimed Mr. 
Katzen. " And she used to tell me it was 
the tag, rag, and bobtail — the very dregs of 
all the tongues confounded at Babel. ' No 
other nation could be found to take it,' she 



" ABOUT ABIGAIL:' 305 



would say, ' and so the Germans were forced 
to have that or nothing.' 

" 4 My faith, the Germans have made some- 
thing out of it since Babel,' I assured her ; 
and then she mocked and cried, ' Bah !' ' 

" Relations between you do not appear, 
even on your own showing, to have been 
very cordial," remarked Mr. Brisco. 

The new Consul shrugged his shoulders. 

"Among friends, you know " he said, 

and left his visitor to finish the sentence as 
might seem to him best. 

How Mr. Brisco did please to finish it 
must for ever remain uncertain, as at that 
instant Mr. Katzen's clerk entered to say a 
gentleman was in the outer office who wished 
to see the Consul for New Andalusia at once. 

" I will call round," was Mr. Katzen's 
cheering assurance as Mr. Brisco rose to 
depart. " Do not disquiet yourself. The 
little one and I understand each the other. 
She will keep no secrets from me?' 

END of vol. 1. 



BILLING AND SONS, PRINTERS, GUILDFORD. 

G, C. fr Cc.